Expanding senior population spurs focus on livability in region

‘The local governments can’t do it all,” leader says.

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

By 2034, there will be more people over age 65 than people under age 18 in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means there will be more seniors than teenagers living in Miami Valley communities.

So what is local government and business doing to ensure this area evolves to meet the needs of its expanding senior population? What should change? Are there opportunities to collaborate across communities? And, more importantly, how will needed changes be funded?

Fortunately leaders in the Miami Valley region have already started working on an age-friendly future.

“The world is changing rather rapidly,” said Donna Kastner, Del Mar Encore Fellow at the Dayton Foundation. “And I’m an optimist. Our goal and hope are to bring progress.”

She was talking about the Miami Valley Age-Friendly Summit: Pathways to a Brighter Future conducted May 8 at the Moraine Country Club. The meeting was sponsored by the Dayton Foundation, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission and the American Association of Retired Persons.

More than 100 civic, non-profit and business leaders from at least 12 local communities — from Bellbrook and Brookville to Xenia and Yellow Springs — attended and are already members of the MVRPC Miami Valley Age-Friendly Network founded in 2021, said Kastner, adding that as a result of the summit, several additional communities have expressed interest in joining the network.

“It takes a village. But every village is a little different. There will be different solutions for different communities,” Kastner said.

“It’s all about networking and communications,” she added.

Making connections was one of the top three learnings of the summit. “Who in the village is also involved in these things?” explained Kastner.

Another top learning: Insights, that is, how to find the data, studies and specialists available to help communities formulate good solutions.

That includes information about funding sources. “The local governments can’t do it all,” said Kastner. “Grants are available.”

Finally, Kastner stressed, is the value of the real-life stories community members can share, the “rich stories that point us to the next part of our journey.”

For summit participants — and any interested community leaders — the next step will be a June 10 “debrief” on summit learnings. Kastner added she believes that smaller special interest groups will form at that meeting to concentrate on top issues.

And there’s a lot to do. The AARP asserts there are eight domains to consider in developing livable communities for seniors, everything from vital infrastructure such as transportation and health services to social aspects such as respect and social inclusion.

Housing and employment/civic engagement are major priorities. Most seniors want to remain in their homes, says Kastner. “But the place you raised your family may not be suitable.”

It’s an issue for seniors; it’s an issue for their children who want Mom and Dad to be safe and happy; and it’s an issue for communities who are under pressure to offer mobility-friendly and affordable housing options, she said.

Senior employment is also a trending priority, said Kastner. More and more seniors want added income, just at a slower pace, perhaps part-time or hourly. Even seniors who don’t need the extra income look for meaning through unpaid mentoring programs or volunteering.

“You still want purpose in your life,” said Kastner, who’s own Del Mar Encore Fellowship is designed especially for senior adults. “Do you want to make a buck? Or do you want to make a living? Or both.”

Business leaders need strategies to capitalize on the many skills seasoned professionals offer. They can mentor younger employees — and learn from their younger colleagues as well.

More details

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities is guided by eight domains of livability.

  • Outdoor spaces and buildings
  • Transportation
  • Civic participation and employment
  • Communication and information
  • Respect and social inclusion
  • Social participation
  • Health services and community supports
  • Housing

More: mvrpc.org/regional-initiatives/regional-livable-and-age-friendly-communities-initiative/miami-valley-age-friendly-network

Upcoming event

Community representatives who are interested in attending the June 10 meeting and learning more about the Miami Valley Age-Friendly Network can contact Donna Kastner at dkastner@mvrpc.org .

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