Elderly Citizens Force Cities to Reevaluate Structure

Most people consider elderly issues as problems with nursing homes, Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. While these are important problems that need to be addressed with our nation’s seniors, the number of elderly residents in cities is forcing them to rethink everything about their infrastructure.

Growing Number of Elderly in Cities

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released a new report detailing the growing number of seniors in our country’s largest cities. According to their report, between 2001 and 2011 the number of elderly ages 65 years and older living in well-developed cities has jumped by 24%. This is more than three times the rate of growth for these cities overall. By 2050, the report estimates that over one-quarter of these cities’ populations will consist of elderly people, and the fastest growing population is seniors ages eighty years old and older.

Common Infrastructure Issues

The report by the OECD boiled down the issues facing large cities into three basic issues: increasing the supply of affordable housing that is accessible to seniors, making it easier for seniors to get around and stay active, and finding ways to provide more social services for less cost. While many people associate living in cities with a younger generation, city living actually works incredibly well for seniors if the proper infrastructure is in place.

Regardless of where they live, seniors typically move into smaller housing as they age, have more difficulty driving, need increased social interaction, and need proximity to medical and social services. Small apartments, public transportation, lots of people, and access to services are all available to seniors by living in a large city.

Examples of Senior Issues in Cities

In Philadelphia, one in seven citizens is already 65 years old or older. The city has been plagued in recent years by an aging population, poverty, and increasing housing costs. By 2020, the number of seniors expected to increase by another 24%, yet the budget for their services was cut by twelve percent last year. To combat the growing number of problems with their seniors, the city passed new zoning regulations in 2011 that would allow for the building of accessory dwelling units, such as a garage, basement, or backyard apartment for seniors to love into with their other family members.

These issues are not just within the confines of the United States. Other well-developed cities across the world are facing similar issues with their elderly populations. In Cologne, Germany, the city started a program where a senior can move in with college students in exchange for caregiving services. The city is also encouraging small businesses to relocate to residential areas so that it is easier for senior access.

In addition, Helsinki, Finland, developed floor sensor systems that allow for caregivers to monitor their patients remotely so that they can stay in their homes for as long as possible. In Lisbon, Portugal, the city has instructed that all sidewalks be at least five feet wide to accommodate their number of walking seniors and has enacted a public awareness campaign to watch out for the elderly on their public walkways.

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