Article Warns Local Governments to Plan for Increasing Elderly Population

A March 27 Sustainable City Network article highlights the increasing proportion of aging or elderly citizens and the importance of local governments to modify their infrastructure and planning processes to account for this emerging demographic.

“Every 7.5 seconds, another baby boomer turns 50,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A). And, barring any unforeseen catastrophe, not many of them will be dying anytime soon. In fact, by 2030, analysts say, more than 70 million Americans – twice the number in 2000 – will be 65 or older. At that time, older adults will comprise nearly one in five Americans.  …

But, while [the aging “baby boomer” population] grab the headlines, as they usually do, Markwood said they’re not the only ones coming ashore with the silver tsunami. The fastest growing segment of older Americans is actually the 80-plus age group, meaning that the parents of baby boomers are living longer just as their children are joining them on the plus side of 50. The combined effect will impact Americans of every age, Markwood said.

The article stresses the importance of local government planning in a variety of sectors and service areas to accommodate an increasingly older population:

Housing – Modifying existing housing, developing new housing, regenerating housing in downtown areas, developing new active communities and assisted living facilities, and developing new technologies that assist aging people in their existing homes.

Transportation – Making roads safer for older drivers, making communities more walkable with safer sidewalks and street crossings, expanding mass transit options, increasing mobility management efforts.

Economic Development – Taking advantage of the fact that older people create economic opportunities and attract new businesses.

Public Safety – Promoting safe communities, preventing elder abuse, altering plans for emergencies and disasters.

Recreation – Providing multi-generational community facilities and civic programs.

The article notes that some experts have expressed concern that local governments are not properly planning to address the needs of an aging population.