Study: U.S. Unprepared for Aging

Aging Today, November/December 2006 | Go to article overview

Study: U.S. Unprepared for Aging


The city of Reno, Nev., partners with the Nevada Food Commodity and Distribution Program to support the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program provides low-income elders with vouchers to use at accredited local farmers' markets. The city offers group transportation to the markets; involves high school volunteers to assist elders with the shopping; and educates older individuals-in English and Spanish-through training sessions about nutrition and healthy eating.

New London, Conn., provides financial assistance to older residents through property tax relief. Through its Senior Citizens Center-the city helps elders apply for aid in paying their rent and utility bills and provides assistance in completing applications for affordable housing or home-sharing programs.

These Reno and New London programs, described in the report titled The Maturing of America-Getting Communities on Track for an Aging Population, are among numerous innovations that American municipalities have initiated in recent years to assist older adults. However, the study, developed by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), showed that despite many positive findings, "this report is a wake-up call," said n4a CEO Sandy Markwood.

The report, involving a survey of 1,790 communities in nine regions of the United States, is the most comprehensive examination ever conducted on the agingreadiness of American communities. According to the report, less than half (46%) of American communities "have begun planning to address the needs of the exploding population of aging baby boomers."

Markwood explained that communities need to go beyond such traditional services as senior centers, meals-onwheels programs and homecare. "To respond to the rapid rise in their aging population, communities will need to provide larger street signage, accessible housing, age-appropriate fitness programs, as well as lifelong learning and job retraining opportunities," she said.

The Maturing of America, funded by MetLife Foundation, analyzes responses from 1,790 communities that returned a survey questionnaire. Although the study included urban, rural and suburban communities, four in 10 of the respondents are cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Following the first survey, researchers sent in-depth questionnaires to 500 respondents whose initial answers indicated a high degree of what investigators termed "aging readiness." To develop and conduct the survey, n4a worked with the International City/ County Management Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and Partners for Livable Communities.

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