Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Resource Squandered

Ageism: tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment (  The population of older American adults (over 65) has continued to climb over time, as health care and awareness for proper care has continued to improve.  In fact, by 2030 more than 70 Million Americans- twice the number in 2000- will be 65 and older… older adults will comprise nearly one in five Americans (The Maturing of Americans).  Are we ready for this population boom?  Now that it has come to my attention, I realize how neglectful towards the needs of older Americans.  Most of my work and efforts have been geared toward children and youth.  In return for this emphasis has been an unconscious disinterest in older adults.   As I examine myself and whats around me, I can see that many programs and policies are designed to disregard the elderly over the young.  How can we serve older Americans?

Findings from The Maturing of America: Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population report that the primary issues are:
•    Finances and funding issues
o    Living on fixed incomes
o    Burden of property taxes
o    Financial fraud and predatory lending
o    Decreased government funding
•    Transportation
o    Cost of transportation
o    Unsafe sidewalks and crosswalks
o    Unreadable signage
•    Housing
o    Maintenance and repair assistance
o    Home modification for safety
o    Targeted service delivery (backyard trash collection, sidewalk snow removal)
o    Subsidized housing

Recommendations include:
•    Finances and funding
o    Relief programs for living costs
o    Tax relief programs
o    Increase fraud education
•    Transportation
o    More accessible and affordable public and private trans- vouchers
o    Signage and sidewalks made appropriate for all ages
•    Housing
o    Provide services meeting maintenance and targeted needs
o    Appropriate zoning laws to make modifications possible
o    Government funds for modification and increased access to subsidized housing

Meeting these needs is certainly a way to serve older adults, but does meeting a need always involving receiving a service?  Can meeting the needs of older adults involving offerings ways to contribute? How can older adults serve other generations?  Do we view older Americans as assets, capable of offering valuable services to us?  From 2005-2010 there has been an increase in volunteering and opportunities for volunteering for older Americans.  With increased free time, older Americans are great resources for program assistance and volunteers!  Intergenerational activities are so important, especially as older Americans have life experience and wisdom to share.  Many times serving older adults does involve giving a service but allowing them to serve.  This is both empowering and beneficial for all involved.

Only 30% of respondents report having in place a process that solicits input from older persons, and just over half that many (17%) report having comprehensive assessments and strategic plans in place. (The Maturing of Americans).  Do older adults have a voice in our communities?  When I consider my own community, most of the population is either children or older adults.  There is potential for community organizing to bring members together, empowering them through involvement in the process and opportunities to connect with those from another generation.  I am encouraged at the possibilities of expanding programming to both meet the needs and empower older Americans.  Let’s take advantage of this population’s ability to contribute and not squander it; this will benefit not only older Americans but you and the people you serve.

The Maturing of America: Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population. Rep. National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, June 2011. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <>.

No comments:

Post a Comment