Archive for Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Attracting more retirees to town will have impact on jobs, services, schools

October 26, 2011


If Kansas University is not the Fountain of Youth, it is at least an age-defying tonic that helps keep Douglas County young.

In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts:

A group of women laugh about an exercise that has them mimic playing a piano during a morning workout in October at Meadowlark Estates, 4430 Bauer Farm Drive, led by activity director Andrea Wyatt. “Are we playing Mozart?” inquired one woman. The Douglas County Retiree Attraction Task Force is on a mission to make Lawrence a retirement destination.

A group of women laugh about an exercise that has them mimic playing a piano during a morning workout in October at Meadowlark Estates, 4430 Bauer Farm Drive, led by activity director Andrea Wyatt. “Are we playing Mozart?” inquired one woman. The Douglas County Retiree Attraction Task Force is on a mission to make Lawrence a retirement destination.

• That between 2000 and 2030, the number of folks 65 and older in Douglas County will have increased by 39 percent.

• Nationally, that older age group will have doubled during the same 30-year period.

So, it appears Lawrence will remain a mecca for the young.

But a local task force sees reason to change that, at least to some degree.

Armed with studies forecasting the benefits of attracting people with spare cash and extra time to a community, the Douglas County Retiree Attraction Task Force is on a mission to make Lawrence a retirement destination. If the attempt to lure more retirees to Lawrence is successful, that older population will have some impact on several aspects of life in Lawrence by creating greater demand for medical jobs, putting more stress on social services and even determining public school funding at the ballot box.

Here is a closer look at some of the issues Lawrence will face.

Medical jobs

In the next five years, at least 17 six-figure jobs will be opening up in Lawrence. The city will need 10 new internal medicine physicians and seven general practitioners by 2016, according to a study by Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Gene Meyer, the hospital’s CEO, said a slew of medical jobs will be needed to keep up with demand.

“There will be a wide range, from primary care, quality health care from the hospital and home services,” Meyer said.

Many of those jobs, like nursing, come with good salaries and benefits. But not all will be high-paying.

Home health aides — a profession expected to grow by 50 percent from 2008 to 2018 — make an average of $10.44 an hour in Lawrence. Nursing aides, who may work in hospitals or nursing homes, make an average of $11.07 per hour in Lawrence, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those types of jobs are unlikely to provide top-notch benefits. One in four nursing home workers have no health benefits, and nursing homes have been lobbying Congress to exempt them from a provision under the new health care law that would force them to provide insurance.

Former Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, now a top lobbyist for the nursing home industry, was featured prominently in a May New York Times article, in which he said many nursing homes couldn’t afford to provide insurance to employees.

Social services

Douglas County’s 2011 budget allocated $521,000 for Douglas County Senior Services Inc., which subsidizes meals, transportation and other services for some area seniors. That’s about 9 percent of all money allocated to area agencies.

But even as government reports predict ballooning budgets for senior services nationwide, those who work with aging populations stress that making generalizations about people based on age goes only so far.

“The important thing to realize is that need for services cannot necessarily be predicted chronologically,” said David. B Oliver, assistant director of the University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Center on Aging in Columbia, Mo.

Oliver would know. Columbia, Mo., made a push of its own to bring retirees to town in the 1990s, and organizers say it succeeded in bringing about 2,600 people.

Oliver noted that a 20-year-old may be struck by osteoporosis while a 90-year-old might get around just fine with the help of a cane and 10 pills a day.

“That 90-year-old would be what I call ‘functionally healthy,’” Oliver said.

At one time or another, even healthy retirees with money will probably use services of some kind, said Amy Byergo, director of the University of Missouri Adult Day Connection in Columbia.

“Even if you are a wealthy and active retiree right now, chances are you are not going to be wealthy and active until your last day,” Byergo said.

In the future, Douglas County may want to consider offering services to seniors on a sliding scale, said Rebecca Holmes, Project Lively Coordinator at Project Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

In her job, she sees middle-income seniors who could use a little help. But they make too much money.

Instead of an “all or none” package, it might work better to have those seniors select services a la carte and pay for what they use, Holmes said.

Public schools

Among education policy wonks, there is a debate whether more senior citizens in a school district is good or bad for its schools.

A 2004 study found seniors who moved to a new area were significantly less supportive of its schools than those who had lived in a community for years.

But it’s hardly a closed case.

Don Laird, president of the Columbia, Mo., Chamber of Commerce, said some senior-dominated precincts were big supporters of Columbia Schools.

In some cities, schools have become hubs for senior activity, which in turn can strengthen support for them.

During the 1980s in Brookline, Mass., seniors took classes after-hours in public school classrooms, and were driven around town in out-of-service school buses. Seniors also built relationships with school children through tutoring and mentoring programs.

At a time when the rest of Massachusetts voted to cut school funding, Brookline seniors, who made up about 20 percent of the population, voted overwhelmingly in favor of its schools.

Susan Esau, executive director of Lawrence Schools Foundation, thinks seniors and strong schools go hand-in-hand.

“Retirees would choose to settle in a town that has a good, stable infrastructure. The public school system is a big part of that,” Esau said.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

Gonna flog this old horse to death, eh, Aaron?

Abdu Omar 6 years, 7 months ago

Not only that, but if taxes and cost of living in Lawrence remain the same, I doubt this whole article. Many of the Seniors I work with are already sorry they have to pay so much for rent, trash removal and water, electricity and of course gas. Where are they going to get the money, Aaron? They haven't had a raise in their Social Security for 3 years and then the cost of living for everything has gone up. I wonder...

Sean Livingstone 6 years, 7 months ago

Cheap living and beautiful women.... you can also find those in other South American cities, Eastern European cities... and of course, Asian cities...

Carol Bowen 6 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I love shoveling snow. I wear leggings, a warm jacket and all that stuff. In Kansas, shoveling snow is entertainment. In Chicago, shoveling snow becomes a chore after a while.

skinny 6 years, 7 months ago

The City of Lawrence won't attract anyone if they make it mandatory that they use the City's trash cans and then charge extra for them!

headdoctor 6 years, 7 months ago

Just what we need is more selfish, spoiled brat, baby boomers who want everything and don't think they should have to pay anything for it.

friendlyjhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

There are little germs of truth in each of these statements. Except for the one about Costa Rico--it's beautiful living and cheap women. This story is not really about seniors it is about all who live in Lawrence. This ecomony has changed so drastically in the past years that no one, except the uber rich (what passes for uber rich in Lawrence) here are considering ways to be more frugal with their resources. The young who have children (or not) have it tough too. One job doesn't do it anymore. Been turned down (always politely and correctly so as to not risk a complaint about age discrimination) for jobs this last year. But that is the norm. So many looking for work that the employer can give low dollar and almost no-existant benefits. Confining this articles to seniors is not correct, it is a community problem for all ages.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

At least the sale of 'Depends' may increase. That and 'Ensure' drinks. If I get a chance, I'm gonna go somewhere warmer.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence's economy was not balanced before the "grest recession". It has always been an employment ghetto. If we have more low paying jobs in the health industry, where will those folks live, and how will they get to work?

P.S. I really do not like the phrase, "health industry". Should health be an industry?

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

Well Lawrence Chamber of Commerce best get with these employers here and convince them to hire people over 60 if they want older people to come live here. Notice jobs are taken up by the young folks first priority and I can't imagine with that state of the economany there will be that many Seniors that wealthy and if so why would they want to come live her when there are so many other more exciting places to live. This article is a joke.

Lawrence Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

Many of these comments are very inconsiderate and stupid. It is clear that the people who are writing this often have very little comprehension, or even care, about older people. David Oliver's comments, in that a 20 year old can be just as difficult - or enlightening - as a 70 year old, are well taken. Yes, there are problems with Lawrence, but many of these exist nationwide. There are many seniors who are involved in very good things in many parts of life,and who don't care just to sit out their time to wait to die, or on the other hand- play golf.

There are many problems. Just one of these is home health aides and nursing assistants, who nursing homes often pay so little that they "can't afford insurance" despite the wonderful caring that many of these aides and assistants have. That's ridiculous.

Much more needs to be done with this series of articles than is presented here. KU, for example, should be offering classes of all kinds, both day and night, for credit or for non-credit. More to the point, community colleges need to step in because KU won't do it, and offer classes of all kinds in communities throughout Kansas, and not for a lot of money. These would not be only for seniors, but for every one.

There should be television available from throughout the world, not just the United States. So many things could be done...but with the comments expressed after reading this article, and the limited range of views presented in the article, there is a lot more possibilities than exist here.

ToriFreak13 6 years, 7 months ago

Most of you know what this is about. Just like the move to force more students out of overcrowded houses into the ever-so-vacant, overbuilt apartment monoliths. Anyone else notice the overbuilt fresh off the farm senior living complexes? this journalism, or kickback advertising? There is nothing here for seniors. No one in the last 5 commissions seems to know what an ATTRACTION is. What are the top 3 attractions in Lawrence? Do not even waste your time thinking about it. We have none worthy of mention. Let alone something worth a senior moving here. Oh they get a nice jazz show at the Lied once a month. They sure won't throw more money at athletics if that is your hope. Someone up top is thinking old money is good money. Those old-timers don't buy stuff online as much and we can make a killing off taxing them. City of Lawrence, stop begging for money, stop overspending, get serious with a permanent, fixed attraction that gives reasons for someone to stop here between Kansas City and Abilene.

Enoughsaid 6 years, 7 months ago

I will be the first to admit that the city of Lawrence is one of the better city to live- in, in the state of Kansas. But knowing what I know now, I think a retiree would have to be on life support to consider retiring in Lawrence Kansas.

As everyone knows the taxes are very high, the jobs are low paying and the cost of homes are expensive. The state of Kansas has the eleventh highest sales tax in the nation and one of only five state's that tax groceries at 100% of the local tax, for Lawrence that would be 8.85%. The state of Kansas makes you pay sales tax on new car rebates. The KU Athletic Corporation is a corrupt organization that only cares about the ole mighty dollar.

To compare Lawrence Kansas to Columbia Missouri is a joke. Retirees living in Columbia can enjoy shopping or dining at the following businesses: Bass Pro, Dick's Sporting Goods, Sam's Club, Lowe's, Menards, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and yes three Wal-Marts.

Any business wanting to come to Lawrence has to fight city hall and a group of do-gooders. Recently Lowes gave up the fight to build in Lawrence and look what hoops Dillons had to jump through just to replace an existing store.

Lawrence is a nice town to visit but don't retire here unless your are rich and don't mind driving to Topeka or KC to dine and shop.

mcontrary 6 years, 7 months ago

I'd like Parks and Rec or the senior center have some scheduled opportunities for seniors to interact with each other in the context of practicing a craft (knitting, crochet, needlework, quilting, etc). No instructions, just meet to enjoy each other's company and practice their craft with others.. I'd really like to see this in the context of meeting with others who have similar intersts and of a similar age. Their are or have been knitting groups in Lawrence, but they come and go with no stabilit and by the tiem I have found one, it's gone. It woudl be so nice to know that at such and such a time and such and such a location, there will be a knitting (crochet, needlework, etc.) group. I'm more in favor of not having much organization or structure, but simply an informal opportunity. for people of similar ages and interests to interact with each other and practice their craft. . I'd happily pay for the privilege. I would probably take advantage of learning a new craft if there were classes with craft instructions. However, there are opportunities for formal instruction now. A local yarn shop offeres classes in most fiber arts and I'd hate for Parks & Rec or Senior Center compete with that any other of the current sources of craft instruction and possbily make those sources less available.
Please, ther is a need beyond currently available opportunities for informal social interactions. My sister-in-law in Florida belongs to a craft group sponsored by the Senior Center where she lives. There are several days on which groups can meet and several groups to choose among. There are monthly lunches for participants of the groups. I'd love to see something similar to that here. If anything similar is available here, I have been unable to find it. All I have seen are classes and rather than classes, opportunities to meet and chat is Iwhat 'm nost intersted. Opportunities to participate in events that are entertaining, educational or otherwiise interesting would also be welcome; something perhaps like the anual farm tour, a trip to a winery or goat farm. Some kind of activity at Pendletons, a bakery demo. Bus trips (for a fee) to various local events. Recreation, but not classes.

mcontrary 6 years, 7 months ago

mcontrary has some obvious spelling issues that I hope will be forgiven. She was falling asleep while typing this comment, doesn’t type all that well even in the best circumstances, and neglected to type the comment in Word so Spell Check, much needed, was available. Mea maxima culpa and many apologies.

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