Did you know that 8,000 baby boomers turn 65 years old every day in the U.S., and that adults over 65 now constitute 14 percent of the U.S. population? Even more surprising, it is estimated by the year 2050 that seniors will account for one-fifth of the total U.S. population.
In view of these rather startling statistics, we must expand the community services offered to our senior population. We are on the verge of becoming a senior-oriented culture rather than the youth-oriented one that currently is portrayed in the media. A recent post by Susan Blumenthal, MD, MPA, public health editor of The Huffington Post and Emma Lape, a Dartmouth College junior, cites the importance of seniors “aging in place.” Aging in place pertains to the ability of seniors to age comfortably in their own homes, often where they lived with their children. Aging in place requires that seniors are able to access educational, cultural, and recreational facilities, and feel safe in their communities.
Therefore, communities across the U.S. must actively work together to provide older adults with a broad range of community-based programs to meet their needs. Some of these programs include: 1) affordable, accessible housing, 2) convenient transportation, 3) work, education, and volunteer opportunities, 4) access to health and support services, 5) participation in civic and cultural activities, and 6) intergenerational connections.
According to Blumenthal and Lape, the intergenerational (IG) connection might be the most important benefit to aging in place. Age segregation creates divides in society, contributing to ageism and depriving everyone of opportunities for intergenerational learning. While young people obviously will need to facilitate the seniors’ ability to age in place, older adults enrich the lives of the young by sharing their knowledge and skills. When communities rise to effectively address these challenges, they will become more livable and welcoming for people of all ages, across the life cycle.