Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, July 10, 2011

Aging boomers strain cities built for the young

July 10, 2011

Advertisement

— America’s cities are beginning to grapple with a fact of life: People are getting old, fast, and they’re doing it in communities designed for the sprightly.

To envision how this silver tsunami will challenge a youth-oriented society, just consider that seniors soon will outnumber schoolchildren in hip, fast-paced New York City.

It will take some creative steps to make New York and other cities age-friendly enough to help the coming crush of older adults stay active and independent in their own homes.

“It’s about changing the way we think about the way we’re growing old in our community,” said New York Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. “The phrase ‘end of life’ does not apply anymore.”

With initiatives such as using otherwise idle school buses to take seniors grocery shopping, the World Health Organization recognizes New York as a leader in this movement.

But it’s not alone.

Atlanta is creating what it calls “lifelong communities.” Philadelphia is testing whether living in a truly walkable community really makes older adults healthier. In Portland, Ore., there’s a push to fit senior concerns such as accessible housing into the city’s new planning and zoning policies.

Such work is getting a late start considering how long demographers have warned that the population is about to get a lot grayer.

“It’s shocking how far behind we are, especially when you think about this fact — that if you make something age-friendly, that means it is going to be friendly for people of all ages, not just older adults,” said Margaret Neal of Portland State University’s Institute on Aging.

A staggering aging boom

While this fledgling movement is being driven by nonprofit and government programs, New York aims to get private businesses to ante up, too.

Last year, East Harlem became the city’s first “aging improvement district.” Sixty stores, identified with window signs, agreed to put out folding chairs to let older customers rest as they do their errands. The stores also try to keep aisles free of tripping hazards and use larger type so signs are easier to read. A community pool set aside senior-only hours so older swimmers could get in their laps without faster kids and teens in the way.

On one long block, accountant Henry Calderon welcomes older passers-by to rest in his air-conditioned lobby even if they’re not customers. They might be, one day.

“It’s good for business, but it’s good for society,” too, he said.

The size of the aging boom is staggering. Every day for the next few decades, thousands of baby boomers will turn 65. That’s in addition to the oldest-old, the 85- to 90-somethings whose numbers have grown by nearly one-third in the past decade, with no signs of slowing.

By 2050, 1 in 5 Americans will be seniors. Worldwide, almost 2 billion people will be 60 or older, 400 million of them over 80.

That’s almost always viewed as a health issue, preparing for the coming wave of Alzheimer’s, or as a political liability, meaning how soon will Social Security go bust?

“We think this is something we should be celebrating,” says Dr. John Beard, who oversees the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities. “They need to live in an environment that allows them to participate.”

Addressing needs

In East Harlem, a yellow school bus pulls up to a curb and 69-year-old Jenny Rodriguez climbs off. The bus had already dropped a load of kids at school. Now, before the afternoon trip home, it is shuttling older adults to a market where they flock to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rodriguez usually goes shopping on foot, pulling along a small cart. It can be a hike. Supermarkets aren’t too common in this lower-income part of the city, and there’s less to choose at tiny, pricier corner bodegas.

More than 200 times, school buses have taken older adults from senior centers to supermarkets in different neighborhoods. It’s just one of a variety of initiatives begun in 2009 by the New York Academy of Medicine and the city’s government to address the needs of older residents. Already, they’re showing results.

A city report found the number of crashes has dropped at busy intersections in senior-heavy communities where traffic signals now allow pedestrians a few more seconds to cross the street.

Artists volunteer to teach at senior centers in return for space to work on or display their own creations.

And a “Time Bank” is letting hundreds of people of different ages and with different skills essentially barter services. A retired English teacher may do some tutoring, for example, and use the credit she earns to get computer help from another volunteer.

Age-friendly changes

Aging expert Andrew Scharlach of the University of California, Berkeley, sees a common thread in these changes and the work of other cities. Combat the social isolation that too easily sneaks up on older adults and it has a huge impact not just on how many years they will live, but how well they live them.

Cities and suburbs were designed for younger people, full of stairs and cars, he explained. As they become increasingly difficult to navigate, older people gradually retreat.

Revamping a lot of infrastructure may not happen in a tough economy. But some communities are building age-friendly changes into planned upgrades or maintenance, such as New York’s street crossings, or into requirements for future development.

The WHO’s Beard says some changes aren’t that costly, noting that seniors around the world say more benches and access to bathrooms will help them get out and about.

Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

How Vermont Enacted Single-Payer Universal Health Care

A talk by Jonathan Kissam of Vermont

Thursday, July 14, 2011, 7 pm

Lawrence Public Library Auditorium, 707 Vermont

Question & Answer Session/ Refreshments Served

Health Care is a Human Right!

Jonathan Kissam will talk about Vermont’s recently-enacted universal healthcare law, which has made Vermont the first state to move toward a single payer healthcare system. Mr. Kissam will present how the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign, a grassroots movement of thousands of Vermonters, made this pioneering legislation possible.

Sponsored by Lawrence Coalition for Peace & Justice, Health Care for All, and others. Come Join Us.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Improved Medicare Single Payer Insurance for All is THE solution.

  • Easy to Implement: Medicare has been in existence since 1966, it provides healthcare to those 65 and older, and satisfaction levels are high. The structure is already in place and can be easily expanded to cover everyone.

  • Simple: One entity – established by the government – would handle billing and payment at a cost significantly lower than private insurance companies. Private insurance companies spend about 31% of every healthcare dollar on administration. Medicare now spends about 3%.

  • Real Choice: An expanded and improved Medicare for All would provide personal choice of doctors and other healthcare providers. While financing would be public, providers would remain private. As with Medicare, you choose your doctor, your hospital, and other healthcare providers.

  • State and Local Tax Relief: Medicare for All would assume the costs of healthcare delivery, thus relieving the states and local governments of the cost of healthcare, including Medicaid, and as a result reduce State and local tax burdens.

  • Expanded coverage: Would cover all medically necessary healthcare services – no more rationing by private insurance companies. There would be no limits on coverage, no co-pays or deductibles, and services would include not only primary and specialized care but also prescription drugs, dental, vision, mental health services, and long-term care.

  • Everyone In, Nobody Out: Everyone would be eligible and covered. No longer would doctors ask what insurance you have before they treat you.

  • No More Overpriced Private Health Insurance: Medicare for All would eliminate the need for private health insurance companies who put profit before healthcare, unfairly limit choice, restrict who gets coverage, and force people into bankruptcy.

  • Lower Costs: Most people will pay significantly less for healthcare. Savings will be achieved in reduced administrative costs and in negotiated prices for prescription drugs.

http://www.healthcare-now.org/

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Medical insurance cannot get any better than this:

IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance for ALL would cover every person for all necessary medical care 24/7 to include:

prescription drugs hospital surgical outpatient services primary and preventive care emergency services dental mental health home health physical therapy rehabilitation (including for substance abuse) vision care hearing services including hearing aids chiropractic durable medical equipment palliative care long term care

No deductibles No Co-pays

A family of four making the median income of $56,200 would pay approximately $2,700 a year for all health care costs.

Allow IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance for ALL to be available now to all taxpaying consumers and let them make the choice. The mechanism is in place as we speak.

Health care in and of itself will remain a private industry.

IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance for All leaves choice of doctors,clinics,hospital and services across the board to the consumer.

http://www.healthcare-now.org/

Flap Doodle 3 years, 6 months ago

How many threads did you spam today with this same drivel?

Jimo 3 years, 6 months ago

If the Baby Boomers don't hurry up and retire it isn't clear who will have enough work experience to take over. It seems that there are precious few college graduates entering the workforce and no recognition of that problem let alone a plan to overcome it. I worry about the younger generation.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.