Friday, October 31, 2008

Part II: Building an Aging Friendly Community

John Carney
Vice President-Aging and End of Life
Center for Practical Bioethics

October 31, 2008

The Center for Practical Bioethics recently hosted a community forum to present an update on the KC4 Aging in Community initiative. A PowerPoint presented that evening can be viewed by clicking here.

During the Q & A portion of the meeting a number of questions were raised. This is the second and final installment of that session.

Answers are provided by John Carney, the Center’s vice president for aging and end of life. Please feel free to ask questions and share comments by clicking here.

We need to take a proactive stance with the Health and Planning Commissions of each city – both sides can learn from the other.

Creating aging friendly communities requires us to identify the stakeholders whose involvement will be required to achieve structural and policy changes. Governmental entities clearly will need to be part of the solution.

Top administrators in city, county, and regional governments can help in clarifying and supporting the departments of government which will most directly relate to each “pillar area” (caregiving, health and technology, housing, mobility, and civic engagement). It makes sense to dovetail our efforts with area Health and Planning Commissions, to ensure we that we work in tandem in a proactive, positive, and respectful manner.

For example, planning personnel are becoming engaged in mobility issues and are being asked to address the policies and codes that may create barriers. City Planners are responding well with some cities incorporating 'mobility' into the strategic plan. It is our goal that all cities incorporate 'mobility' within the strategic planning process.

How will the travel industry adjust for the increased number of senior travelers?

The initiative has not done a lot in this area. Our work has been more directed at navigating local environments (including one’s home) or getting to/from necessary destinations.

The leisure travel and entertainment industry has recognized the growing market for seniors focusing primarily on group trips. In local KC focus group meetings we learned that local casinos have contracted with bus companies to provide regular “day” trips to the casino.

Specific information on the impact to the travel industry has been beyond the scope of our KC 4 Aging in Community project. Internet savvy seniors will continue to grow for the individual markets. Cottage industries catering to the more affluent seniors in retail side of travel should also show strong growth.

Matching programs for at-risk children and seniors?

Currently, the Volunteer Centers and the Retired Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP) associated with the United Way of Greater Kansas City and the United Way of Wyandotte County help connect potential volunteers with programs and agencies needing volunteers.

Most agencies require interviews with prospective volunteers so that both the agency and volunteer have a chance to evaluate if this would be a good fit or match. Each agency also has its own particular guidelines for orientation, training, and perhaps other requirements.

This is a good starting point, but we look forward to the future as our initiative discovers new ways of matching the skills of volunteers and the work interests of seniors with the needs of the community.

31.3% of the 300 million in the US poor; what attention is being given to this population?

To assure that seniors remain in the community and in their preferred residences, we will have to work hard to address the needs of the poor and near poor. The numbers of elderly, especially women, who rely on Social Security as their sole source of income is staggering.

Recent developments in the housing and financial sectors pose additional risks. The work of the initiative must focus on neighborhood mobilization resulting in effective outreach, caregiving support programs that appropriately intervene and mobility and transportation/delivery assistance that is customized.

Innovative intergenerational housing maintenance activities currently in existence in KC or in model programs across the country can be shared and replicated through our work groups and civic engagement activities.



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