Since 1987, MIHI has been working as a proponent of universal design in homes, streets and recreational facilities to accommodate the needs of senior citizens and people with disabilities.
"We need to raise awareness of what's ahead in the next 10 years. With the onslaught of the baby boomers, the needs of community will change dramatically," Hendershot said.
Mary Besecker, who founded MIHI in 1987, said she became aware of the need for universal design through her son Kenny Grimm. At 14, Kenny volunteered to work with children at the Potomac Center, an institution for people with developmental disabilities. When Kenny went to the park with the children, he was upset because they were unable to use playground equipment and could only sit and watch the other kids play.
"That put a fire under me," Besecker said.
She realized that senior citizens faced the same kinds of accessibility problems. Besecker started MIHI, raised money and began equipping area parks with picnic tables that had benches with back support and enough open space to accommodate wheelchairs.
MIHI went on to sponsor Challenge baseball and bowling for children with disabilities, underwrite the cost of accessible grandstand seating at the Federal Little League facility and construct fishing piers at Devil's Backbone Park.
The group also has enhanced pathways at the Star Community Inc. lake, sponsored fishing tournaments for senior citizens and people with disabilities and conducted continuing education classes for real estate agents on the advantages of constructing homes utilizing universal design principles.
During fall 2002, MIHI dedicated Rainbow Connection, a $120,000 boundless playground at Marty Snook Park. The group is working with St. John's Episcopal Church and Habitat for Humanity to build an accessible home on Liberty Street.
Hendershot said the group is in the planning stages of an initiative to work with local government and churches to improve quality of life for seniors, particularly in the downtown area where there is a high concentration of senior living facilities. The proposed program would offer courses for seniors in subjects such as ballroom dancing, genealogy, travel, finances and introduction to computers.