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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

COA brings leaders together to discuss preparation for “age wave”

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COA invited community leaders to two recent meetings to discuss ways our region can prepare for the aging of its population. Participants helped identify priorities for community planning and spending of Older Americans Act funds.

The first event – a small dinner gathering – was a guided discussion with community leaders, some of whom were relatively new to the concerns of our aging population. Guests included the President of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati; Regional Healthcare Director for Walgreens; Hamilton County Health Commissioner; CEO/President of University of Cincinnati Health; an Ohio Senator; and the President of Interact for Health, a regional non-profit promoting health and wellness.

The following day, more than 80 people from business, non-profit and government organizations participated in an interactive forum, “A Conversation on Aging: Are We Prepared?”

The meetings arose from COA’s participation in the United States of Aging survey, a project of United Healthcare, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), and the National Council on Aging.

Each year the United States of Aging Survey polls U.S. adults age 60 and older for their insights on how older Americans are preparing for their later years, and what communities can do to better support this growing population.

The focus of this year’s survey expanded to include not only older adults, but also professionals who work closely with the older adult population, including staff from Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), physicians, pharmacists and credit union staff.

Qualitative information was also gathered in Cincinnati and Denver, with support from Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio and Denver Regional Council of Governments.

Data on the preparedness of older adults to meet the challenges of aging provided a catalyst for lively discussions. Media interest in the event included a story in the Journal-News and talk show discussion on Cincinnati Public Radio.

Survey results pointed to different perspectives between older adults and the “aging influencers” who work with them. Among the findings:

  • More than four in 10 older adults say they feel “very prepared” to age, but only one in 10 of the aging influencers think older adults are “very prepared.”
  • Three-fourths of older adults intend to live in their current homes for the rest of their lives. But top concerns include whether they can get enough help with long-term care, home maintenance, and transportation. 
  • Older adults in Cincinnati said the community offers them a good quality of life, but only about half thought our region has done enough to prepare for the aging of its population. 
  • Most older adults expressed concern that they will have enough money to last the rest of their lives. However, they cited “taking advantage of senior discounts” as a top financial strategy, while aging influencers thought they should look at much more impactful solutions, such as working past traditional retirement age.

COA is compiling notes from the discussion groups at the Conversation on Aging event and will report results to participants as well as use them to guide future strategic planning and Older Americans Act spending priorities.

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