Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Chicago

Is Your Community Age Friendly?

The majority of older adults prefer to remain in their own home as they age.  Even those who expect to move plan to remain within the community where they raised a family, have friends, belong to a church, and know the businesses.

While seniors are expecting to stay put, many communities may find that they are unprepared for the large number of older adults that are, and will be living in their communities.

Not only are people living longer, but their numbers are increasing.  During the 18-year period from 1946 through 1964 there were 77 million children born, and the first wave of this baby boomer generation turned 60 in 2006.  The aging of the population is expected to impact virtually every community within the U.S. throughout the next 40 to 50 years; whether urban, suburban or rural.

Along with the increase in the aging population there has been a growing demand to develop communities that enable older adults to live independently, participate in and contribute more fully to community life.   Age friendly communities provide access to health and human services, make it easy for older adults to get around, provide varied and affordable housing options, promote civic engagement and lifelong learning, ensure the safety and security of their residents, and promote workforce and economic development opportunities.

Age friendly initiatives can range from a single project which targets a specific community need, to comprehensive efforts that address a broad range of issues. In the process of implementing age friendly initiatives, many are discovering that it benefits residents of all ages and adds to the vitality of their communities.  Unfortunately, not all communities are on track for an aging population.

A recent study completed by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging states that "over half of America's communities have not begun to prepare for the rapid aging of the population. Overall, programs, planning and policies that address the needs of an increasing number of older adults do not appear to be happening at a level that reflects need."  According to the report, The Maturing of America: Getting Communities on Track for an Aging Population, less than half (46%) of communities have started planning efforts and even fewer (44%) have created advisory groups or councils to engage older adults in determining the community need.

The Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging hopes to change that.  They have submitted a resolution to the state legislature that would initiate a 3-year, statewide age friendly assessment and community planning process, beginning in 2008.

"We will be working with 45 Illinois communities to assess where they are, and to support the process that they take to plan age friendly activities," said Lucia West Jones, president of the Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging.  "With the support of the Department on Aging and the 13 local area agencies in Illinois, we will be helping folks to establish relationships that may or may not exist, but don't often exist to the level that is needed," added Jones.  The assessment process will culminate in a report to the state legislature about the findings, and the projects that were implemented in the 45 communities.

In addition, communities throughout the greater Chicago region have already started, or are planning innovative age friendly initiatives.

The Chicago Life Opportunities Initiative (CLOI) is a unique partnership between two social service agencies, Mather LifeWays and CJE SeniorLife, designed to link the talents of older adults with nonprofit organizations to help them build capacity to better serve their communities.  The initiative empowers older adults by assisting them with life planning to determine their interests in paid employment and volunteerism, and providing them with leadership training to better serve in key capacities in a nonprofit setting.  CLOI also works with organizations to encourage them to maximize the skills, talents and capabilities of older adults.

In suburban Cook County 18 communities are participating in the Aging Well partnership, sponsored by AgeOptions.  These communities have organized preventive health clinics, sponsored monthly education forums, negotiated senior discounts at local businesses, and brought youth and seniors together to improve the reading skills of children, to help seniors learn computer basics, and to assist them with yard work.

In west suburban Naperville the Elderly Services Team was formed to increase the safety and security of seniors, whether they live in their own home or a retirement center.  Patrol officers regularly visit the retirement centers on their beat in order to build relationships with older adults and service providers during non-emergency situations.  The police department also offers residents with memory impairments a radio signal wrist band and registration into a digital photography database in order to expedite the emergency response in the event that a person gets lost. The police and fire department offer home inspections for seniors to evaluate fire and fall prevention and to provide home security tips.

In 2006, Lockport Township residents passed a .04% tax levy in order to secure and expand services to benefit seniors and their families, including door-to-door transportation and a wide array of health, nutrition, educational, safety, social and recreational programs.   Lockport Township, located 30 miles southwest of Chicago, also has five housing developments for seniors including a 50-unit development with affordable one bedroom apartments.  This single story, five-acre development includes a community center, social programs and plenty of open space.

About 35 miles northwest of Chicago straddling Lake and Cook counties, Barrington Area Council on Aging has formed a coalition of local leaders, community organizations and citizens who are working together to promote and encourage paid employment and volunteer opportunities for, and in service to older adults.

Age friendly communities ensure that older adults can continue to live independently, participate in and contribute more fully to community life throughout the aging process.  Along the way, many of these communities are finding that age friendly initiatives benefit residents of all ages, make it easier for family members to support one another, and contribute to a vibrant business community.

Home    Featured Programs    Choose Local Area     Request Information
A JR Media Publication • www.jrmediallc.comSite Index