By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters
According to numerous surveys and studies, most seniors wish to age in their own homes and communities as long as possible. In fact, AARP’s 2011 survey states that 90 percent of persons aged 65 and older want to age in place.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 National Population Projections, found online at bit.ly/2qd1uNw, shows that in less than 13 years, more than 70 million Americans will be 65 and older — twice the number recorded just seven years ago, or one out of every five citizens.
According to Wikipedia, the 2017 population of California is roughly 39.5 million (see tinyurl.com/knvj28o). Extrapolating the projections puts the current population 65 or older in California at roughly 8 million.
Putting this into perspective: If it were an independent country, California would rank 34th in population in the world. It has a larger population than either Canada or Australia and according to World Population Statistics (see tinyurl.com/ksuagz5), more than one out of 10 of all U.S. citizens (12.2 percent) live in California.
I stress these statistics to emphasize the aging crisis underway in our state and nation, and the need for greater cooperation and collaboration between all citizens and their government and public and private entities to minimize the increasingly negative impacts it will have on our way of life, regardless of our current individual ages.
A research report by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute stresses that how communities are designed and policies are set in place are crucial.
As stated in the report, “These policies include integrating land use, housing and transportation; efficiently delivering services in the home; providing more transportation choices, particularly for older adults who no longer drive; and improving affordable, accessible housing to prevent social isolation.”
The report concludes, “State legislators will continue to grapple with the challenges and opportunities presented by significant growth in the older adult population. Without changes in how communities are constructed and services are delivered, older adults may find it increasingly difficult to live in their communities and may have to consider institutional care. This could mean increased costs for states. State policy makers may consider the above strategies to facilitate aging in place, which people overwhelmingly prefer.”
Refer further to “A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices,” found online at tinyurl.com/mefynlv.
Now that I have your attention, let’s narrow the conversation to San Diego County area and a very important partner for our residents.
Agencies on Aging (AAAs) were formally established in the 1973 Older Americans Act (OAA) and are a collection of over 618 agencies nationwide. It is the mission of that network of agencies to help vulnerable older adults age in place with dignity in their own homes and communities. San Diego County’s AAA is known as (AIS) Aging & Independence Services. According to its website, AIS provides “services to older adults, people with disabilities and their family members, to help keep clients safely in their homes, promote healthy and vital living, and publicize positive contributions made by older adults and persons with disabilities.”
It is a very important resource that every senior and the friends and family members who care for seniors should familiarize themselves with so they are aware of the services available to assist them, most of which are free. Please refer to the AIS website, located at tinyurl.com/kwhtsyx, for more detailed information.
Rather than continue to quote alarming reports and projections, I hope this article informs and incites readers so that they might be more diligent, insistent and proactive in planning ahead and pressuring their elected and public officials to do no less, if we are to avert the worst possible outcomes of the unfolding aging crisis in all areas of our lives as we grow: affordable and accessible housing, health care, transportation, our economy, family and professional careers.
—Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.