Small Towns Face Challenges Of Aging Population
|By Jenny Wagner, Beaver County Times, Pa.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"We sacrifice our todays for their tomorrows," the
Silver, a renowned city planner from
Some have, some haven't.
The fact is the county's five-year median age estimate is now 44.2 years, according to the 2012
The economic challenges posed by the population trend go beyond towns and boroughs, though, touching everything from businesses and the workforce, housing, health care and medical services, as well as individuals and families.
With new development and blight management plans, the borough has been working to bring in businesses and amenities for residents, who now must travel to
"We'd like to have services available in the town where it's a walkable type of thing that (older residents) don't have to have transportation," said
"We don't have a grocery store, we don't have a cleaners," she added. "There are so many things that most small towns have that we're lacking right now, (and) we'd like to be able to attract them for our residents."
"It is a very walkable town. Anything you need is down here; there's a hardware store, there's a grocery store, a bakery, hairdressers, doctors, dentists, coffee shops, restaurants," he said. "So it's very convenient for the elderly to just come down and shop."
Officials have even noticed a trend of older adults moving back into the town, Andres added.
"People who have grown up in
Not every community can address all of their residents' needs, but they can work together to do so, said
It's an urgent conversation, she stressed.
"You are never going to find the height of nightlife in
As part of an older adult task force at
Churches feel the effects of aging acutely, Matsco said, but she knows the question applies to communities as well.
"We often put this idea of aging in the health care slot, but it's definitely an economic development issue," she said.
Both personally and ethically, Andres feels it's important for communities to take care of older residents' needs.
"I think the older generations have done a lot for us and we describe them as the Greatest Generation ever and baby boomers, and basically we owe everything to them. ... As they get older I think it's only fair for us to provide for whatever needs they may have."
"What's this older person going to do 10 years from now, when that house is going to become a real headache?" Horn said of the need for senior housing in the mostly rural community.
"Let's face it, people are getting older and that's obvious, but they're living longer and the intent is for them to live longer, being more active and enjoying longer," Horn said. "So you've gotta give them a way (to) do that."
Andres said that's key.
"(Older people) want to try to live as independently as possible, and if what we can do to improve our amenities so that they are capable of really living independently, I think that's the best solution," he said.
New Sewickley now is re-evaluating its zoning to allow for such development, and also to bring in younger families and individuals. A mix is necessary for growth and success, Horn said.
"I always tell (planning board members) that the decisions you make today are what it's going to look like 50 years from now. It's not the next day from now ... it's 50 years that's going to tell if we did a good job," he said.
Matsco said whether planning for the young or old, "what's good for people is good for people."
"Having a healthy economy is good for people and having a diverse economy is good for people," she added.
"We want to maintain what we have, but we also want to attract younger people in a more cultural way down here," he said. "We have to praise our senior citizens because they're the ones who got us to this point, but now we have to go to the next level."
CHALLENGES AT HOME
For older adults, even some of the best planning and saving still may not be enough to maintain basic needs after retirement, research shows.
The Elder Economic Security Standard Index, developed by the
The index uses
On average, an elder couple in excellent health requires an annual income of
According to ACS five-year estimates from 2008-2012,
In developing the elder standard index, researchers concluded that many older adults who are not considered "poor" according to the poverty level, still do not have enough income to meet their basic needs.
An estimated two-thirds of early boomers -- the oldest of the baby boom generation -- are financially unprepared for retirement, meaning they have not saved enough money to maintain their lifestyle, according to a 2008 independent report by the
The retirement of baby boomers poses an economic challenge for decades to come, the MGI report concluded, and they must decide if they will find a better way to retire, or be known as the generation who had money, spent it and left economic turbulence in their wake.
One solution posed by researchers was to extend the median retirement age by about two years, allowing more individuals to better prepare and keeping the country's economy strong.
Everyone's situation is different depending on finances and needs, but
Apprise connects older individuals to income-based benefit programs, such as the state's PACE prescription assistance program, and other resources to help them fill in financial gaps. The program also provides health insurance counseling for those considering
McDermitt said she often sees individuals who struggle to keep up with expenses despite advanced planning.
"Economically, it's been a really rough couple of years and health care costs are always increasing and rising; the costs of medications are rising," she said.
But even though future needs may be unpredictable, it's still important to discuss plans and options for retirement as soon as possible, McDermitt said.
"You definitely need to have some kind of plan even if you just sit down with your family and say these are some of my wishes," she said. "It's just important to let your family know -- or someone that you're very close to -- to help make these decisions."
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