Community Experience Partnership

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan recognizes that over the next 25 years the projected doubling of the region's aging population will have profound implications for every aspect of life in southeast Michigan. The Community Foundation envisions southeast Michigan communities  that are desirable places for all persons to age and live healthy, empowered and productive lives where whatever one has to contribute makes a difference. We aim to have the contributions of older adults recognized, respected and heralded by the philanthropic, nonprofit, government and business sectors alike. 

Older adults have an essential role in the economic and social transformation that is now underway in Michigan, yet for this to happen, older adults need to feel empowered and connected to those places where their contributions can make a difference.

As part of the Community Experience Partnership (Partnership), an initiative for U.S. community foundations from The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan completed a community assessment that showed great interest and enthusiasm for community engagement among older adults across the region. It also showed that there is no "silver bullet" approach to mobilize and engage older adults to address community solutions. Instead, a series of approaches are required. This led the Foundation's staff, Trustees, volunteers and partners to employ the following five strategies:


  • Regional strategy: Working with other funders and community partners by establishing partnerships, coordinating efforts and building support among the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, the regional strategy leverages and promotes older adult initiatives and awareness of multigenerational opportunities and challenges in the region in areas such as economic security, workforce, transportation, livable communities and health care.


  • Urban strategy: Focusing on an area of Detroit with the highest older adult population and leveraging a partnership with the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the urban strategy is demonstrating how to tap the extraordinary resources of older adults to create more livable neighborhoods in a diverse urban setting.
  • Economic strategy: Building upon the Community Foundation's investment in the New Economy Initiative, opportunities are being identified and encouraged to engage mature adults in ways that will accelerate the transition of metro Detroit to a more sustainable innovation-based economy and increase their financial security, through community engagement, social purpose work, entrepreneurialism and workforce participation.


  • Internal strategy: Recognizing aging as a priority for the region, the Community Foundation's internal strategy includes review and assessment of age-related grant making to inform the Community Foundation's community investment and program planning related to lifespan issues and older adults, and ultimately building the Community Foundation's assets for age-related investments.

Implementation of these strategies has taken several forms that build upon one another to leverage opportunities for maximum impact in the community.


Here are a few examples:

Michigan's Mature Workforce (Regional and Economic Strategy)
As a member of the Council of Michigan Foundations' Grantmakers in Aging affinity group, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan took an active role in the development and facilitation of a state-wide, two-part webinar series for funders, employers and community leaders focused on Michigan's mature workers. Hosted by the Council of Michigan Foundations with support from Grantmakers In Aging and Atlantic Philanthropies, Michigan's Mature Workforce: Philanthropy's Response to an Emerging Employment Crisis was a great success that has helped foster partnerships and regional activities within southeast Michigan.

Detroit Elder Economic Security Initiative (Regional and Economic Strategy)
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan partnered with the Detroit Area Agency on Aging (DAAA), Elder Law of Michigan (ELM), AARP Michigan and other local organizations for the NCOA (National Council on Aging) Elder Economic Security national demonstration program pilot. This demonstration program will offer free counseling and support to economically vulnerable older adults in Detroit and seven other cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York City, Tucson, and Baltimore. Made possible from a $1 million grant from the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, NCOA's Economic Security Service Centers will pilot test this important and innovative holistic approach to economic casework and reach 4,000 seniors over the next two years.

Neighborhood-based Change for Livable and Supportive Communities (Urban and Regional Strategy) 

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan supported residents in the near-east side of Detroit and the Grosse Pointe communities over a nine month period as they became leaders of neighborhood-based change and livable community initiatives to support seniors, people living with disabilities and families. In an intensive nine month planning and research process, both initiatives conducted a survey, held community meetings and learned from several national and local aging-in-place models, including the Beacon Hill Village model, neighborhood cooperatives, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC), TimeBanking and others. Each volunteer initiative has developed a unique approach to achieve their vision and maintain the cultural fabric of their communities and are beginning to implement these initiatives in the Villages of Detroit and the Grosse Pointes. To hear the volunteers tell their own story about these initiatives and this visioning process, click on the links below. 

  • Pointers Sustained, Grosse Pointe, MI  We envision a simple and accessible connection point where residents, institutions, and service providers can link their skills, talents, and services to one another in ways that support a strong, inclusive, and sustainable community for people of all ages.

  • Villages Neighbor to Neighbor, Detroit, MI  VillagesN2N is an organization of Village residents, community organizations, churches and businesses that share their skills, talents and resources. Through exchanging services and bringing neighbors together, we create affordable solutions to everyday problems, a safer, friendlier community and unity of the neighborhoods.


BOOM! The New Economy (Regional and Economic Strategy)
Adults 40+ represent unbounded resources that can and do play a significant role in addressing our most pressing local and national problems. These folks are the entrepreneurs, learners, consumers and workers that we depend on, and they are some of our most dedicated volunteers and community leaders using their experience in very innovative and creative ways.

Initiated by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. TechTown, Operation Able, Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation and AARP Michigan, BOOM! The New Economy is an initiative to bring events, training programs, resources, volunteer and learning opportunities together for adults 40+ and promote the value and importance of southeast Michigan's 40+ talent in the regional economy.

Senior Engagement Program (Internal Strategy)
The Senior Engagement Program of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan exists to strengthen and empower organizations that that are non-traditional senior service organizations to assume leadership on issues facing southeast Michigan's aging population by supporting important collaborations with partners with expertise in aging and charitable activities in southeast Michigan. The Program works to help participating organizations 1) reshape their current operations to be more welcoming, inclusive and supportive to the largest growing demographic group in our region; 2) learn more about how to serve or engage older adults; and 3) enhance collaboration and improve the capacity of organizations to serve and/or engage older adults and address fundamental issues of aging.

Seniors Count! (Regional Strategy)
The Community Foundation partnered with Adult Well-Being Services and Wayne State University Institute for Gerontology (WSU/IOG) on the Seniors Count! project to help provide a clearinghouse of information on seniors in the region. The concept is modeled after Kids Count!, the national system that collects, analyzes and reports indicators of childhood well-being. Kids Count! was launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 1989. Seniors Count! is developing an ongoing information system designed to consolidate, analyze and disseminate reliable and consistent data about adults 50+ in order to improve the quality of life for those individuals as well as the community.

Currently the project is in its first phase, Feasibility and Indicators, which involves planning and designing an ongoing system of collecting and analyzing demographic, social and policy data specific to adults age 50 and over in the seven-county southeast Michigan region. White papers are being finalized now that will summarize secondary data on critical issues to Michigan's seniors, including health and well-being, transportation and others. The next phase will focus on implementation and dissemination (18 months) and involves the full implementation of the system, followed by interpretation and publication of collected data. The intention is to make this information accessible to policy-makers, researchers, direct service professionals, and other stakeholders.