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For eight years, AARP has been awarding grants to help build small, transformative projects and spark conversations about how to improve communities.

The organization received over 3,350 applications for its 2024 grant program and ultimately awarded 343 grants totaling $3.8 million for “quick action projects” across the country. Eleven of those grants went to communities in California—see the full list below.

The grants were awarded in three broad categories to support “projects that benefit residents – particularly those over 50”: flagship grants (between $500 and $50,000, but the amount can be any), demonstration grants (typically between $10,000 and $20,000, but not more than $50,000), and capacity-building micro-grants ($2,500).

Flagship Grants

Flagship grants could be used for projects that improve open spaces and parks, increase walkability on foot and by bike, support housing, improve digital connectivity, manage disaster preparedness, or promote financial well-being and health.

In California, the most important grants go to:

  • Imperial Beach to build and maintain a garden for growing fruits, vegetables and flowers, with raised beds and accessible benches for older gardeners. The garden will also serve as a venue for classes and other events. ($15,000)
  • Long Beachwhere Placemaking US is building a community comal – a traditional frying pan – and engaging older Mesoamerican women to revive the weekly tradition of tortilla making, with the goal of fostering intergenerational connections. ($16,675)
  • Sacramento for a pop-up plaza project to transform a parking lot at the Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum into an outdoor plaza with accessible benches for the elderly. ($10,000)
  • San Diegowhere the Adams Avenue Business Association will create a large mural and transform an alley into a green space. An impromptu event will showcase mural designs selected by local residents, who will then work with professionals and city staff to create the mural. ($20,000)
  • Vallejo for Vallejo Main Street, a project to transform a neglected alleyway into a vibrant gathering place for residents of all ages. The temporary project will spark a discussion about more permanent investments in the revitalization of downtown Vallejo. ($15,000)

Demonstration grants

The demonstration grants are intended for projects that implement promising strategies to improve quality of life: to contribute to better disaster response as described in the AARP Disaster Resilience Tool Kit, to enable equitable engagement to reconnect communities separated by infrastructure, or to improve community understanding and knowledge of housing solutions.

In California, demonstration grants go to:

  • Fresnowhere the US Green Building Council Central California will host a design competition to explore opportunities to repurpose existing vacant office space. ($20,000)
  • Los Angeleswhere Streets For All will host spontaneous events in neighborhoods that have been divided by freeways for decades to find solutions to reconnect these neighborhoods. ($15,000)

Micro grants for capacity building

These grants are intended to provide communities with information on and implement bicycle and pedestrian audits as well as education on the redesign of living spaces for the elderly.

In California, four such grants go to:

  • Los Angeleswhere Keiro Services will train volunteers to conduct three sidewalk audits in the Little Tokyo business district. Participants will identify potential improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks to increase safety for seniors living nearby.
  • Located 1.6 km from Rancho Cordova, Rancho Cordova offers accommodation with a balcony with a pool.where Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates will conduct a bicycle audit of Rancho Cordova’s first-ever roundabout and then meet with city public works staff to discuss the results and next steps.
  • San Diegowhere the Webster Heights Community Development Corporation invites senior volunteers to participate in bicycle audits along a multi-use trail to identify possible safety improvements for the route.
  • San Franciscowhere Outer Sunset Neighbors trains Chinese-speaking volunteers to assess the safety and walkability of sidewalks and crosswalks in San Francisco’s Little Chinatown neighborhood.