Ready, Here Come the Boomers
This year, the first of the Baby Boomers turn 65. But this milestone birthday may not be so eagerly celebrated, as our nation realizes the drastic impact this huge generation will have on our communities. Six years ago, the first edition of “The Maturing of America,” a report undertaken by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging with groups representing local governments and city planners, found that most communities were not properly prepared for the impact of an increasing aging population: the age 65-plus population is expected to double by 2030.
With its partners — Partners for Livable Communities, the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities — “The Maturing of America – Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population,” polled 10,000 cities and counties across the nation and looked closely at the progress under way in every aspect of community life, including land use and zoning, housing, transportation, social services, and civic engagement.
The report reveals that at best, communities have managed to maintain the status quo for the past six years, noting that the recession has had devastating effects. Most communities “have been able only to ‘hold the line’—maintaining policies, programs and services already established,” the report said. “Thus, they have not been able to move forward to the degree needed to address the nation’s current ‘age wave.’”
The report did reveal however, that despite the challenges, important advances have been made including 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 for the workforce; and expanded volunteer opportunities. Even so, with millions of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, these advancements are nowhere near the level of progress needed to ensure that communities are livable for people of all ages.
Progress has been made in many communities, but with the effects of the recession making a slow recovery, and many communities making fewer advances while underestimating the impact of this new senior population, we need to continue to be agents in change making. We should continue to make advancements at the local, regional and national levels and it certainly would not hurt for the boomers to wish on their 65th birthdays for progress to be made.