While it’s no secret the Great Recession has been devastating to older Americans, it has also impacted the ability of U.S. communities to meet the needs of the aging population.
A new report published by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging reveals that at best, communities have managed to maintain the status quo for the past six years due to the decline in the overall economy and local government budgets.
“Most communities have been able only to “hold the line”— maintaining policies, programs and services already established,” said the report. “Thus, they have not been able to move forward to the degree needed to address the nation’s current “age wave.”
Using information gathered for the survey, n4a found financial funding shortages, transportation, and housing are the top three challenges for local communities in meeting the needs of older adults.
As far as housing is concerned, the availability of programs to provide home maintenance and repair assistance, home modiﬁ cation and targeted service delivery to meet the needs of older adults (e.g. backyard trash collection, sidewalk snow removal) remains roughly the same as five years ago. However, subsidized housing availability slipped to 63% from 70% in 2005.
“This is bad news for the most vulnerable among a community’s elders. Subsidized older renters have been found to be twice as likely to be disabled as older homeowners, with over half reporting limitations in activities like walking and climbing stairs and a third reporting difficulty with shopping or going to the doctor,” said the report.
The report also reveals some positive advances that include a dramatic increase in specialized training for emergency and public safety staff in dealing with older adults; growth of in-home supportive services; greater support for advanced education and retooling for the workforce; and expanded volunteer opportunities.
Even so, with millions of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every month, these advancements are nowhere near the level of progress that has to be made to ensure that communities are livable for people of all ages.
“These findings show that the country still has a tremendous amount of work to do in a very short amount of time to address America’s rapidly rising aging population,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO of n4a. “Although communities have done an admirable job to maintain the status quo considering the economic conditions we’ve faced, given the dramatic aging demographics, the status quo is not good enough. These findings should be a major wake-up call for local governments and should motivate them to take immediate actions that will address the challenge and opportunities at hand.”
View a copy of the report here.