Age and Dementia Friendly Best Practices
An Age-Friendly community is one that is livable for residents of all ages inclusive of older adults and those living with dementia. Age-friendly communities strive to be equitable and accessible with walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to services, and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.
Best Practice: Engage and convene leaders across municipal departments, businesses, local citizen groups, regional planning agencies, and private and non-profit organizations to align around the goal of creating an age- and/or dementia-friendly community, including partnering with neighboring municipalities to engage in a regional effort. Community engagement should take a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens.
Action Planning and Assessment
Best Practice: Conduct a baseline assessment, informed with data, age- and dementia-friendly indicators, and community feedback to inform the planning and implementation of specific age- and dementia-friendly community initiatives. Map results for key indicators such as transportation, housing, employment, outdoor spaces and building, civic participation, and social inclusion. Among the sources of relevant data and information available to communities are: Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative (MHAC) Community Profiles, World Health Organization’s Checklist of Essential Features, and National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center dementia-capability tool or similar nationally recognized assessment tool or process.
Best Practice: Review and amend municipal policies, regulations, and programs with a goal of promoting aging in all policies, programs, and services in an equitable and inclusive manner.
Best Practice: Raise public awareness that aging is an asset and that older adults, including people living with dementia, make meaningful contributions to the community.
Best Practice: Inventory, publicize and share local information and resources, including programs, services, and supports for older adults and their caregivers.
Best Practice: Develop policies, practices, and programs to support aging in community, improve elder economic security, or facilitate connection and engagement, including through technology access. Programs or activities may include, but are not limited to, support for older workers, job seekers and volunteers, technology programming and digital literacy, property tax assistance programs, built environment improvements, and transportation and mobility programs.
Education Best Practices
Best Practice: Focus on college and career planning, in collaboration with regional workforce organizations (e.g., MassHire Career Centers), beginning in middle school and continuing through high school, by implementing the MyCAP framework for college and career advising for all students.
Best Practice: Implement collaborative arrangements among regional vocational technical schools, comprehensive high schools, and community colleges to maximize opportunities for high school students and adults to access specialized vocational education programs.
Best Practice: Create opportunities for municipal governments to collaborate with high schools and colleges to provide students with internship experiences aligned to their courses of study, especially in STEM-related departments (i.e., IT, engineering department, accounting, etc.).
Best Practice: Improve the alignment and integration of YouthWorks and Connecting Activities programs for local high school students pursuing summer jobs and paid internships.
Best Practice: Strengthen partnerships between public safety, social services, healthcare providers, and local public and private schools to establish systems and protocols for assessing and identifying children and young adults who present risks to themselves or to others, in order to ensure effective and pro-active responses that can prevent violence and provide timely supports to individuals in need.
Energy and Environment Best Practices
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Best Practice: Plan Ahead to mitigate climate change by establishing goals, creating an action plan, assigning responsibility, and tracking progress.
Best Practice: Use Renewable Energy instead of fossil fuels by generating or purchasing clean power and by zoning for renewable power generation.
Best Practice: Increase Energy Efficiency in order to reduce power consumption, fuel costs, and GHG emissions.
Best Practice: Promote Zero or Low Carbon Transportation to reduce municipal transportation emissions & those from people living/working in the community.
Best Practice: Encourage Sustainable Development to reduce, through higher density & mixed-use, the number distance of car trips & resulting GHG emissions.
Best Practice: Protect and Manage Natural Resources to reduce carbon emissions from loss of natural land cover and to encourage carbon sequestration.
Best Practice: Reduce Municipal Solid Waste and Increase Recycling in order to reduce GHG emissions associated with solid waste disposal.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Best Practice: Become a Green Community pursuant to M.G.L. c. 25A §10 to realize the energy & environmental benefits.
Best Practice: Construct high performance all electric buildings (or communities) to reduce GHG emissions & enhance resiliency. Examples include Zero Energy or Passive House buildings.
Best Practice: Convert streetlights to LED technology to reduce cost and GHG emissions.
Best Practice: Reduce energy use at times of peak demand to reduce GHG emissions and enhance resiliency.
Best Practice: Provide electric vehicle infrastructure to facilitate the purchase & use of electric vehicles and when replacing municipal vehicles evaluate feasibility to integrate electric vehicles into existing fleet(s).
Best Practice: Become a Solarize Mass or Solarize Mass Plus Community in order to help achieve renewable energy use & GHG reduction goals.
Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience
Best Practice: Complete a Climate Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program to assess local risks from climate change and identify potential actions to enhance community resiliency.
Best Practice: Use the Municipal Vulnerability Action Grant or other funding to implement climate adaptation actions that utilize nature-based solutions & increase equitable outcomes for and support strong partnerships with Environmental Justice communities.
Best Practice: Engage & protect Environmental Justice and other climate vulnerable populations in adaptation planning & action to decrease risk and increase resilience for those who are more susceptible to climate change effects.
Best Practice: Utilize the beta RMAT Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool to mainstream climate resilience into capital planning & budgeting to ensure investments decrease risk & enhance resilience to a changing climate.
Best Practice: Integrate Climate Adaptation into Land Use and Environmental Regulation to minimize future risk & costs for new and redevelopment.
Sustainable Development and Land Protection
Best Practice: Complete a Master or Open Space & Recreation Plan to guide land conservation & development decisions including zoning & land acquisition.
Best Practice: Zone for Natural Resource Protection, Transfer of Development Rights, Traditional Neighborhood, or Transit Oriented Development.
Best Practice: Invest in Land Conservation or Park Creation/Restoration via Community Preservation Act or other funds to protect land & provide outdoor recreation.
Best Practice: Plant Trees to increase tree cover in residential neighborhoods and other densely developed settings or Adopt a Tree Retention Bylaw/Ordinance to preserve and enhance tree cover.
Water Resource Management
Best Practice: Require Localized Flood Protection Best Practices, including Stormwater Management Measures to increase recharge, manage water movement, reduce pollution, and control flooding to protect lives, public safety, infrastructure, the environment, & critical assets.
Best Practice: Protect Public Water Sources in order to reduce potential threats to water quality and the public health of system customers; establish and maintain emergency connections with other municipal or regional systems.
Best Practice: Manage Water and Wastewater Assets for timely maintenance and rehabilitation, to lower energy use, and to reduce Infiltration and Inflow to minimize unintended storm and waste water in the system.
Best Practice: Implement Water Conservation Measures to ensure long-term water resource sustainability, enable growth & avoid new source development.
Best Practice: Utilize Advanced Financing Tools such as an enterprise fund, stormwater utility, full cost pricing, or water bank for water/waste/storm water systems.
Best Practice: Enhance Waste Ban Compliance so that recyclable and hazardous materials are diverted from the waste stream and reused or recycled and support markets for hard-to-recycle items such as mattresses.
Best Practice: Develop Waste Contracts that are fiscally, environmentally, and otherwise beneficial to the community.
Best Practice: Adopt Pay-As-You-Throw so that residents have an incentive to reduce trash disposal and save money.
Best Practice: Increase the Recycling Rate through regulatory improvements, service expansion, and other mean in order to reduce waste and disposal costs.
Best Practice: Enhance Education via Recycle Smart MA, the Recycling IQ Kit, etc. so residents throw away less, recycle more, & follow smart waste practices.
Best Practice: Work to increase residential and commercial composting by providing educational materials, tools and equipment, and other technical assistance to communities, residents, and businesses.
Best Practice: Complete a Brownfields Inventory so that the community is aware of all abandoned and underutilized properties and can develop plan of action.
Best Practice: Conduct Site Assessments to determine the nature and extent of contamination and develop a plan of action.
Best Practice: Facilitate Site Cleanup and Reuse to encourage assessment, cleanup, & reuse of privately held sites offer tax incentives or update regulation.
Best Practice: Adopt a Right to Farm By-law/Ordinance to clearly indicate that agriculture is a local priority and to minimize abutter conflicts.
Best Practice: Establish an Agricultural Commission to advocate for local farms, administer a right to farm bylaw, & otherwise represent agricultural interests.
Best Practice: Support Sustainable Forestry to help the forest economy in rural areas, improve forest habitats, and assist in the conservation of forest land.
Best Practice: Support Local Agriculture including Urban Agriculture, Aquaculture, Floriculture, & Horticulture, via education, marketing, promotion, and the Farm to School initiative to help local agricultural businesses increase awareness of and access to fresh as well as value-added agricultural products through the effort of an organized community farmers market and/or an agricultural fair/festival.
Best Practice: Establish a city/town/local Food Policy Council to address food system inequities, adopt policies/bylaws, and develop meaningful solutions to eradicate food insecurity in the region.
Best Practice: Commit to supporting the protection of agriculture in your community. Commit to co-holding Agricultural Preservation Restriction by contributing towards the acquisition of easements.
Best Practice: Identify and assess food aid and hunger relief programming efforts, education and outreach, and opportunities for collaboration with local farms, fisheries, processors, and distributors to engage and reach more community members.
Best Practice: Work with local school districts to put in place policies that attempt to purchase food from local farmers and encourage institutions to do the same.
Best Practice: Create an inventory of local farms and quantify the fiscal benefits to your community of keeping land in agriculture through a Cost of Community Services study. Also document the cultural and environmental benefits of agriculture in your town.
Financial Management Best Practices
Best Practice: Establish a Budget document that details all revenues and expenditures, provides a narrative describing priorities and challenges, and offers clear and transparent communication of financial policies to residents and businesses.
Best Practice: Develop, document and implement Financial Policies and Practices including reserve levels, capital financing, and use of Free Cash. Such policies should identify the responsible parties and procedural steps necessary to carrying out the directed strategy or action.
Best Practice: Develop and utilize a Long-range Planning/Forecasting Model that assesses both short-term and long-term financial implications of current and proposed policies, programs and assumptions over a multi-year period.
Best Practice: Prepare a Capital Improvement Plan that reflects a community’s needs, is reviewed and updated annually, and fits within a financing plan that reflects the community’s ability to pay.
Best Practice: Review and evaluate Financial Management Structure to ensure that the structure and reporting relationships of the community’s finance offices support accountability and a cohesive financial team process.
Best Practice: Utilize Financial Trend Monitoring, modeled after the ICMA’s Financial Trend Monitoring System (FTMS).
Housing and Economic Development Best Practices
Preparing for Success
Best Practice: Create an Economic Development Plan that engages diverse stakeholders, leverages local and regional economic strengths and assets, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and/or promotes workforce development planning and implementation.
Best Practice: Align Land Use Regulations, especially zoning, capital investments, and other municipal actions with Housing Development, Economic Development, Master, Land Use Priority or other plans for future growth. Promote development and reuse of previously developed sites.
Best Practice: Create and Distribute an Economic Development Guide/Manual to not only promote development goals and priorities, but also specifically and clearly outlines the community’s policies and procedures related to zoning and permitting.
Best Practice: Create Opportunities for Engaging Diverse Stakeholders in economic development efforts, such as to assist with identification of priority development projects, improve local permitting processes, and proactively address obstacles to housing accessibility and affordability as well as job creation.
Best Practice: Create Cross-Sector Partnerships to help carry out community-driven responses to community-defined issues and opportunities for economic development.
Best Practice: Create a District Management Entity that engages public/private stakeholders to develop and support downtown revitalization efforts.
Best Practice: Adopt as-of-Right Zoning and/or Streamlined Permitting to promote development in priority districts.
Best Practice: Adopt Zoning for Mixed-Use Development, including Transit Oriented Development, where appropriate.
Best Practice: Adopt Chapter 40R Smart Growth zoning to facilitate the creation of dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts, including a high percentage of affordable housing units, to be located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.
Best Practice: Engage in an Economic Development Self-Assessment exercise to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity.
Best Practice: Establish and Utilize Performance Data to evaluate the competitiveness of the community, conduct year to year comparisons, and measure performance against comparable communities.
Best Practice: Create a Public Dashboard to benchmark, monitor, and communicate to the public regarding various housing and economic development performance measures.
Best Practice: Create a Housing Production Plan (HPP) that accounts for changing demographics, including young families, changing workforce, and an aging population.
Best Practice: Amend Zoning By-Laws to allow for increased density and housing opportunities in a manner that is consistent with neighborhood character and supportive of aging in community.
Best Practice: Develop Sector Strategies and Plans in collaboration with various providers and stakeholders to address homelessness for specific high need population groups, such as homeless youth, veterans, older adults, and/or families.
Best Practice: Complete an Assessment of Fair Housing Report, including strategic goals in alignment with HUD’s new rules to affirmatively further fair housing. Using HUD data, local data and knowledge, a significant community participation process, and the assessment tool provided by HUD, the community will prepare, complete, and submit its AFH to HUD.
Urban Renewal Planning
Best Practice: Determine need and appropriateness of establishing an Urban Renewal Entity in accordance with MGL chapter 121B. If prepared to proceed, develop action plan and timeline for the creation of the urban renewal entity.
Best Practice: Prepare an Urban Renewal Plan Application in accordance with MGL chapter 121B in partnership with the urban renewal entity.
Human Resources Best Practices
Best Practice: Cost-Out Collective Bargaining proposals so that the impact of the total package is known. This provides the municipality with a clear understanding of both short-term and long-term budgetary impacts.
Best Practice: Develop a Workplace Safety program so that the risk of on-the-job injuries is minimized.
Best Practice: Develop a formal Wage and Classification Plan that details, at a minimum, job descriptions, employee grades, and salary ranges, thereby providing the municipality with a tool to make pay decisions that are reasonable in comparison to similar work being carried out in all areas of city/town government.
Best Practice: Develop Employee Policies and Procedures for things such as discrimination, sexual harassment, information technology use, drug and alcohol, use of social media, and town-owned vehicles.
Best Practice: Manage employee benefit costs such as health insurance, dental insurance, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation/111F; includes eligibility review and evaluation of insurance choices.
Best Practice: Prepare a Succession Plan to help address the pending wave of retirements that will challenge a municipality’s ability to maintain service levels and utilize expertise and experience of mature workers through consulting or mentorship programs.
Best Practice: Explore Centralized Human Resources/Personnel Operations to improve service delivery and build efficiencies.
Information Technology Best Practices
Best Practice: IT Assessment - Perform a general IT assessment that results in a written evaluation and best practice recommendations. At a minimum, the assessment should include a review of hardware infrastructure, networking, backup, email and user account management.
Best Practice: Cybersecurity - Perform a cyber security assessment to identify human and technology risks within the environment, analyze and identify gaps in existing cyber security processes, assess vulnerability to external attack and identify steps to remediate identified issues.
Best Practice: Strategic Planning - Review technology organizational structure, spending and business goals across the community and develop a strategy to prioritize technology investments.
Best Practice: Regional/Shared Services - Design a regional shared IT services program to maximize technology resources across communities and/or school districts.
Best Practice: Business Continuity - Develop IT resiliency, recovery and contingency plans that are aligned with community realities and position the community to effectively manage unforeseen events.
Best Practice: Citizen Engagement - Develop a plan to improve digital communications with the public, including content structure on the website, practices around content creation and ownership and social media.
Best Practice: Transparency - Develop a document and/or records management strategy that results in operational efficiencies and improved responsiveness to the public.
Public Accessibility Best Practices
Best Practice: Undertake an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Self-Evaluation and Develop a Transition Plan to comply with Federal civil rights laws that require public buildings to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Best Practice: Strive for the Universal Participation (UP) designation from the Mass Cultural Council by encouraging and supporting arts and cultural facilities and events in the community.
Public Health Best Practices
Best Practice: Community Coalitions are critical partners for substance use disorder prevention that can be a pathway to becoming a Prevention Prepared Community. The Coalitions can use SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) Model as a guide for creating a thoughtful and comprehensive community prevention plan to address substance use and other related community issues. There are many prevention strategies to choose from with programs and practices that can be tailored to each unique community.
Best Practice: Assess where in the municipality overdoses occur and develop environmental solutions, such as: public education signage and outreach campaigns, ensuring that first responders carry naloxone and are trained in overdose response, and make street outreach teams aware of locations where overdose occur.
Best Practice: Using SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) to ensure a consistent data-driven planning process across the community to inform the selection of culturally responsive and sustainable strategies and prevention interventions that will have both a measurable effect and a meaningful impact on preventing the early onset of substance use disorder among youth, as well as addressing more acute issues such as reducing opioid misuse and preventing opioid overdoses.
Best Practice: Work to expand community access to all FDA-approved Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), including promoting telehealth connections between patients and their providers where appropriate, coordinating with the criminal justice/correctional system and behavioral healthcare system, and making training on using MOUD available to addiction treatment and health/human services providers. Work to reduce stigma of substance use disorder and encourage evidence-based treatment.
Best Practice: Assess challenges posed by recent public health crises and identify opportunities for building public health infrastructure and staff capacity. Develop shared public health services with contiguous municipalities. Examples include environmental health; infectious disease prevention, reporting, and case management; emergency preparedness, including dispensing sites; animal and vector control; hazardous and toxic substances; inspections of retail food establishments, housing, recreational camps, and pools; and ability to set appropriate regulations, bylaws, and ordinances.
Best Practice: Convene local and state health and enforcement officials to develop a standardized response protocol, by region, for hoarding, including animal hoarding. Create a list of contacts and resources that can be accessed by the appropriate service agency, including but not limited to the: Department of Mental Health, Department of Children and Families, Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Disabled Persons Protection Commission, and the Department of Veteran’s Services. The list should be reviewed and updated frequently to contain the most up-to-date information.
Best Practice: Healthy Community Design focuses on changing policies and practices to create conditions for people to eat better and move more where they live, learn, work, and play. Conduct a Built Environment Regulatory Review (BERR), a point-in-time evaluation of existing municipal policies/plans/regulations. The review will provide a baseline from which to prioritize strategies to promote walking and biking. This best practice can be combined with several other best practices that relate to municipal zoning and land-use.
Best Practice: Conduct a Community Food Assessment (CFAs), an evaluation of the food system within a single neighborhood/municipality/region that defines needs and assets to improve access to healthy foods. The evaluation may lead to a Community Food Plan that identifies priority actions (i.e., addition of food retail into a town’s economic development plan). This best practice can be combined with several other best practices that relate to municipal zoning and land-use.
Best Practice: Implement and enforce evidence-based tobacco control strategies at the point of sale to reduce youth initiation of tobacco use.
Best Practice: Climate Change Adaptability Planning. Data collection, strategy development and planning at the local level are critical to the overall preparedness and long-term resilience to the effects of climate change. Develop a report that identifies: the range of climate impacts, associated potential health outcomes, vulnerable populations, the additional burden of health outcomes due to Climate Change, and the most suitable health interventions. Use the CDC’s BRACE framework to develop and implement a plan that introduces health system program changes.
Best Practice: Develop foodborne illness outbreak protocols and assess capacity to enforce regulations that evaluate food systems.
Best Practice: Assess capacity to ensure all housing inspections include lead hazard identification and that lead inspections are conducted when requested by families with small children.
Best Practice: Local boards of health (LBOH) can take a leadership role to advance health equity by: 1) building internal infrastructure, 2) working across government; 3) fostering community partnerships, and 4) championing transformative change. LBOH may adapt strategic practices to advance health equity in local health both internally within their departments and externally with communities and other government agencies. DPH Office of Local and Regional Health and Office of Health Equity staff are available for support.
Best Practice: Implement the National CLAS Standards within local public health to help advance and sustain culturally and linguistically appropriate services by establishing a framework to serve the increasingly diverse communities.
Best Practice: Disaggregate data by race/ethnicity, income status, sexual orientation/gender identity and expression, and other key demographic factors to identify and address health inequities.
Best Practice: Collaborate with Emergency Management to ensure preparedness and planning efforts address gaps and ensure resiliency for essential public health and community functions. Using tools, such as CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) and DPH’s Emergency Preparedness Portal, incorporate planning considerations for at-risk populations, including people with disabilities have access and functional needs in times of disasters and emergencies.
Public Safety Best Practices
Best Practice: Conduct Active Shooter Preparedness and Response Training in collaboration with the Massachusetts State Police Tactical Operations (STOP) Team, onsite with local law enforcement.
Best Practice: Establish an Emergency Preparedness Plan in partnership with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to develop and enhance a community’s disaster and emergency response capabilities.
Best Practice: Establish Hazardous Material Response Protocols in conjunction with Regional Hazardous Materials Response Teams under the Department of Fire Services, to enable cities and towns to protect their citizens, the environment, and property during incidents involving a release or potential release of hazardous materials.
Best Practice: Hold In-service Training Programs for Municipal Police to better prepare local police officers and first responders for incidents involving domestic violence, mental health disorders, and substance abuse.
Best Practice: Convene an opioid task force, consisting of key stakeholders, to identify, implement, coordinate and improve strategies around the prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery of substance use disorders.
Best Practice: Adopt Standardized Tools for Domestic Violence Cases by partnering law enforcement with local domestic violence organizations to adopt a best practice policy on training and implementation of standardized, evidence informed danger and strangulation tools. Municipalities are encouraged to apply individually or as a collective.
Best Practice: Establish a Triad program (a partnership of three organizations—law enforcement, older adults, and community groups). This group maintains an ongoing schedule of community education to combat fraud and elder abuse involving the Attorney General’s Office, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, District Attorneys, and other state agencies, as appropriate.
Regionalization/Shared Services Best Practices
Best Practice: Regionalize services and share resources among municipalities for efficient and effective service delivery to residents and taxpayers in this era of shrinking budgets, loss of seasoned employees to retirement, and increased need for service improvements.
Transportation / Public Works Best Practices
Best Practice: Develop a Safe and Mobile Older Drivers plan for the aging of the population by proactively addressing older driver issues, including education for older road users, infrastructure improvements, and transportation options.
Best Practice: Enhance citizen safety by establishing community-based programs to increase safety for all roadway users including pedestrian, bicycle, automobile, motorcycle, and alternative and shared mobility devices (ex. scooters and electric bikes). The community will demonstrate participation in the Commonwealth’s Office of Public Safety and Security’s trainings and conferences as well as the dissemination of public safety information to citizens. In addition to the Complete Streets program, communities are encouraged to participate in MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces grant program.
Best Practice: Ensure Safe Infrastructure so as to provide a safer environment for all users and modes by implementing traffic engineering enhancements. The municipality will demonstrate regular and routine improvements on locally-funded roads, such as cutting back vegetation at intersections where it is known to interfere with sight distance, clearing brush that obscures traffic signage, renewing or installing pavement markings, conducting nighttime surveys to check visibility and retro reflectivity, implementing traffic calming measures at known high crash locations.
Best Practice: Implement Complete Streets by joining MassDOT’s Complete Streets Funding Program and demonstrating the integration of Complete Streets principles into regular planning and design practices on local roadways.
Best Practice: Utilize Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) fundamentals to create zoning around transit centers that maximizes bike, pedestrian, and transit use and which allows for lower levels of required parking and mixed use to put needed amenities near population centers.
Best Practice: Develop a Safe Routes to School program that also includes student education on pedestrian safety.
Best Practice: Participate in the Bay State Roads, which provides on-going training and helps municipalities share ideas and information with other communities about state-of-the-art planning, design, and operational information for city and town public works managers.
Asset and Infrastructure Management
Best Practice: Inventory and Geo-Code all public works assets so that a database of every public works asset is created, geocoded and condition rated, which is used to inform capital planning, as well as emergency repair.
Best Practice: Develop a Pavement Condition Index that rates street condition for the municipality.
Best Practice: Develop a Multi-Year Vehicle Maintenance and Replacement Plan for their municipal vehicle fleet.
Best Practice: Develop a Bridge / Culvert Preventative Maintenance plan to help prolong the life of these critical transportation assets.