Demographics tell the story.
From now until 2030, 10,000 people a day in the U.S. will celebrate their 65th birthday. The number ofAmericans over 65 is expected to reach 71.5 million by 2020, over 20% of the population. The demandon America’s cities and towns to become “elder friendly livable communities” is daunting. You may already have a plan and a budget to modify your home to meet your needs as you age, butwhat about your community? What is being done to deliver local services to ensure that your quality oflife is not compromised as you age.
These services, important to any age group, are especially vital to older Americans; services such as
- Health care – access to affordable health care and preventative services
- Nutrition – millions of U.S. adults can’t afford, prepare or gain access to food
- Recreation – communities should provide fitness programs to make much-needed exercise available to older adults
- Transportation – when seniors stop driving, communities should have adequate, affordable and accessible public transportation
- Public Safety/Emergency Services – first responders need to be trained in the special needsof older adultsEmployment – with the retirement age to collect Social Security benefits continuing to increase,many Americans will be working well into their 70s.
Three major U.S. cities are well along in preparing for their aging populations.
New York City began in 2008 to respond to the city’s dire population forecast – an estimated increase of 50% of residents 65 and older in the next 25 years. In 2008, the mayor’s office, the New York City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine created an initiative – Age Friendly New York City. In just two years (July 2010), New York became the first city in the world to join the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities. (Portland, Oregon is the second U.S. city). In 2009, New York City created 59 projects to make the city more elder friendly, including making the streets safer for pedestrians, using school buses that are idle in the middle of the day to transport seniors to supermarkets free of charge, and launching the Silver Alert Program which broadcasts information about missing 60+ year olds with cognitive impairment. By 2030, Atlanta will have 20% of its residents over 60. In 2009, the Atlanta Regional Commission launched the Lifelong Communities Initiative which welcomed input from older residents along with many experts. The result of this collaboration was a series of design principles that would make a community livable. The Commission selected six local communities to implement the principles to improve the quality of life for older Americans. Of the 10 largest U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the highest proportion of people age 60 and older. In 2008, Philadelphia’s Area Agency on Aging, the non-profit organization, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), created Age-friendly Philadelphia. A year later, a PCA planner created GenPhilly, a network of professionals in their 20s and 30s. GenPhilly’s mandate is to educate the next generation of leaders about aging issues in City of Brotherly Love. Some of the city’s age-friendly efforts include revamping the 40-year old zoning code to focus in on mixing more commercial and residential areas. Additionally, 500 acres of publicly accessible open space was created by the parks department whose future goal is to locate a park near a senior center. To learn more about livable communities, visit the non-profit organization, Partners for Livable Communities, at www.livable.com.
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