Economic Challenges Prevent Progress in Creating Livable Communities for the Rapidly Aging Population; With Budgets Strapped, Communities Are Struggling to Maintain the Status Quo
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- A new report released today finds that, due to the financial consequences from the Great Recession, many U.S. communities have been unable to make significant progress in preparing to meet the needs of the country’s rapidly aging population. “The Maturing of America – Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population,” a follow-up to an extensive survey conducted in 2005, reveals that at best, communities have managed to maintain the status quo for the past six years due to the decline in the overall economy and local government budgets. The report, which was released by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), also reveals that important advances have been made despite these challenges, including a dramatic increase in specialized training for emergency and public safety staff in dealing with older adults; growth of in-home supportive services; greater support for advanced education and retooling for the workforce; and expanded volunteer opportunities. Even so, with millions of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every month, these advancements are nowhere near the level of progress that has to be made to ensure that communities are livable for people of all ages.
“These findings show that the country still has a tremendous amount of work to do in a very short amount of time to address America’s rapidly rising aging population,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO of n4a. “Although communities have done an admirable job to maintain the status quo considering the economic conditions we’ve faced, given the dramatic aging demographics, the status quo is not good enough. These findings should be a major wake-up call for local governments and should motivate them to take immediate actions that will address the challenge and opportunities at hand.”
According to the report, local communities—even under economic duress—have the means to develop policies, programs and services that will increasingly make them “good places to grow up and grow old.” Specific recommendations include the thoughtful adaptation of zoning and land-use policies, coordination of housing and transportation planning, and enhancement of programs and services that keep older adults actively engaged in the community.
“This report underscores the importance of addressing the needs of an aging population at the local level,” said Dennis White, president of MetLife Foundation. “The good news is that there are many actions community leaders can take right away—that don’t require additional resources—to prepare for bolder, more comprehensive services for older citizens.”
“The Maturing of America – Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population,” which assesses the progress of local governments in developing and implementing programs, policies and services that meet the needs of their older citizens, was released at a news conference byn4a, with support from MetLife Foundation. The survey of over 1,400 cities and counties across the country is a follow-up to a 2005 survey that looked at the “aging readiness” of America’s communities.
“It is going to take a collective effort from community leaders, agencies on aging, universities, businesses, non-profit organizations and other public sector entities - to act swiftly and break through the current stalemate,” said Markwood. “This report highlights some of the best practices around the country and we hope that local governments will take notice and take swift action to ensure that their communities address the needs of all citizens across the lifespan in their communities.”
Key findings from “The Maturing of America – Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population,” which is available at http://www.n4a.org/programs/, include:
Local Governments Are Economically Strapped: In 2010, only 42 percent of jurisdictions indicated they were experiencing some growth—a drop of 25 percentage points from the 67 percent reporting some growth in 2005; in 2010, 30 percent of local governments experienced some decline; a nearly three-fold increase from the 11 percent that reported that they experienced some decline in 2005.
Transportation is a Top Challenge: Programs that provide transportation are reported by over 80 percent of respondents, but only 63 percent of communities report having sidewalk systems linking residences and essential services. Programs on the Pacific Coast lead the country.
Public Safety Services Have Improved: Local governments with specialized training for public safety/emergency staff in dealing with older adults more than doubled, to 59 percent from 24 percent in 2005. But, communities with plans in place for evacuation of older adults, decreased to 71 percent from 81 percent in 2005.
Aging/Human Services Improve: There has been significant growth in availability of in-home support services for older adults since 2005, to 77 percent from 71 percent. Local governments report a drop in availability of a single-entry-point model for services, to 37 percent from 42 percent in 2005.
More detailed information about the findings, including geographical statistics, specific recommendations for action and best practices are available at www.n4a.org. Communities that are home to some of the Best Practices in America include Pima County, AZ; Marin County, CA; San Diego, CA; Ventura, CA; Miami, FL; West Palm Beach, FL; Waterloo, IA; Lawrence, MA; Westchester County, NY; Austin, TX; Fort Worth, TX; Charlottesville, VA and Fairfax County, VA.
Although the Maturing of America report was led by n4a, it could not have been completed without the support of its partners, who helped update and promote the survey. Partners with n4a include the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), Partners for Livable Communities (Partners), the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National League of Cities (NLC) and the American Planning Association (APA). ICMA administered the survey.
About MetLife Foundation: MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation is committed to building a secure future for individuals and communities worldwide, through a focus on empowering older adults, preparing young people and building livable communities. More information is available at www.metlife.org.
About n4a: The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is the leading voice on aging issues for Area Agencies on Aging and a champion for Title VI Native American aging programs. Through advocacy, training and technical assistance, the organization supports the national network of 629 AAAs and 246 Title VI programs.
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