Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffrey A. Burr

Second Advisor

Jan E. Mutchler

Third Advisor

Lenard Kaye


Population aging brings opportunities and challenges for local community and economic development. One policy solution that has been adopted by 325+ jurisdictions in the United States is joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities or the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. Although the age-friendly movement is gaining momentum in the US, few studies have looked at what influences municipal decision-making about joining a network or making age-friendly changes. The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore what influences municipal decision-making about joining a formal age-friendly network and how communities mobilize the resources at their disposal to make age-friendly changes after joining.

The conceptual model that guided this multiple case study incorporated Kingdon’s policy change model to frame municipal decision-making about joining a formal age-friendly network and resource mobilization theory to frame factors that influence implementation of age-friendly changes after a community joins an age-friendly network. The study was based on three in-depth case studies of jurisdictions in New England that had joined an age-friendly network-- Brookline, Massachusetts; Newport, Vermont; and Ellsworth Maine. Data from the three in-depth cases were brought together in multiple case analysis.

The study offers partial support for the conceptual model. In all three cases, the policy entrepreneur was key to municipal decision-making. However, the policy entrepreneur’s role differed if the individual or organization was part of the community or not. Kingdon posits that agreement on a single problem definition increases the likelihood that a policy will be adopted. However, in these cases, the policy entrepreneur defined the problem differently for different audiences, framing the problem differently for municipal government than for organizations and residents, a departure from Kingdon’s model.

Resource mobilization theory posits that collaborations are more likely to form when an initiative has resources, opportunities for collaboration, and when stakeholders share a strong commitment to the work. Each case had access to different resources and opportunities for collaboration; collaborations were key to moving the work forward. The primary resources utilized were relational and ideological. Material resources were less likely to move the work forward than other resources.