According to recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, adults age 65 and over will outnumber children for the first time ever by 2035. Aging Baby Boomers — the main driver of this trend — also stand to live longer than other generations, which means a 200 percent increase in adults over 85 between now and 2060.
To prepare for this dramatic demographic shift, cities across the U.S. are developing systems and services to enhance livability for all ages. These three programs are helping communities become more age friendly.
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities
An affiliate of World Health Organization's Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities advances efforts that help older adults live more comfortably at home. The program includes initiatives in housing, caregiving, community engagement, volunteering, social inclusion and combating isolation among older citizens.of
AARP works with local officials and partner organizations to identify cities that meet its membership criteria. The organization then guides these cities through the membership process.
To make AARP's Age-Friendly Communities list, cities and towns should have walkable streets, accessible transportation, access to health services and community activities. As part of its mission to become more livable, Wichita, Kansas, transformed two empty lots into Grandparents Park, an outdoor space with walking trails, exercise equipment and a playground. Although the City of Wichita designed the space to meet the needs of seniors caring for their grandchildren, residents of all ages enjoy the park.
You know how neighbors used to stop in and check on each other? That's what AgeWell is all about.
Launched in South Africa in 2001, AgeWell uses a peer-to-peer model to help aging populations. Through partnerships with community-based organizations, AgeWell recruits older adults to become companions of others.
Volunteers visit peers in their homes to socialize and gather health information. Volunteers enter any health information and social problems into a smartphone app that provides referrals to medical providers. Cleveland, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and New York are currently piloting the AgeWell program.
Aging2.0 supports innovators tackling aging challenges. The international initiative focuses on collaborative, lifestyle-oriented, opportunity-driven projects.
Unforgettable.org, a UK-based marketplace for dementia products and services, won Aging2.0's 2017 Global Startup Search. The site aligns with Aging2.0's eight grand challenges, which include brain health, and mobility, among others.
A future of age-friendly communities
Although America has made significant age-friendly improvements, it has far to go. To date, communities and states in AARP's age-friendly network serve only 75 million of our country's 326 million people. Only about 176 mayors to date have signed the Milken Institute's Mayor's Pledge — a commitment to healthy aging and creating livable cities for all. It's not the majority, but it's a good start.
Spectrum Retirement residents live in an age-friendly environment with a supportive, engaging community. Residents look out for one another just like your childhood neighbors. They connect during social events and in fitness classes. They have easy transportation and opportunities to volunteer both within Spectrum and in the community at large.
As our over-65 population grows to record numbers, consider raising your voice to make your own community more age friendly.