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Monday, February 27, 2017

Dear Blog Readers

I must apologize for not posting sooner, but I've been in the process of applying for affordable senior housing here in Chicago. This has entailed lots of site visits and filling out sometimes quite lengthy applications.

On the plus side, I think I've dropped an entire dress size--if I still wore dresses--with all the walking I've been doing, some days a bit more than my usual three miles.

Later this week, I plan to do a post that will update my adventures, including dropping off three more applications on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing my total to four since last Monday.

I will include in that post how much this personal odyssey of mine might ultimately benefit others who presently seek--or will be seeking--their own affordable senior housing in Chicago.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Makes an Age-Friendly City? Let’s Start With Outdoor Spaces & Buildings

As an old person living in Chicago, I’m interested in how cities are—or are not—adapting to the “silver tsunami” that the Boomers especially represent.

Here’s how the World Health Organization (WHO) describes it:

Since 2008 the majority of the world's population live in cities. Urban populations will continue to grow and by 2030 it is estimated that around 3 out of every 5 people will live in an urban area.

At the same time, as cities around the world are growing, their residents are growing older. The proportion of the global population aged 60 will double from 11% in 2006 to 22% by 2050.

Now, as I learned just last November, Chicago was designated an “Age-Friendly” city by WHO in July 2012 (one of only three in the United States.)  And what I understand about this designation is that it’s not so much a fixed point that the city has reached, but a process it is engaged in, a goal it is moving toward.

And to help Chicago and other cities achieve that goal, WHO has developed eight domains “that cities and communities can address to better adapt their structures and services to the needs of older people.”*

They are as follows, and in no particular order:

1. outdoor spaces and buildings;

2. transportation;

3. housing;

4. social participation;

5. respect and social inclusion;

6. civic participation and employment;

7. communication and information;

8. community support and health services.


Now the first—outdoor spaces and buildings—is likely familiar to anyone who is aging in an urban environment, and especially to those of us who walk, bike, and take public transportation to get around town. And have for the past 30 years since selling our cars.

We pedestrians, for instance, are very sensitive to outdoor spaces and buildings because we daily encounter them along our urban rambles. We notice the ratio of green spaces to concrete, of buildings that are designed on a human scale, both aesthetically appealing and with the aged and physically disabled in mind.

Approaching a busy intersection, we wonder how safe it is to cross, even with the light, when drivers are barreling down them at 70 mph (Western Avenue, among many), often on their phones or, worse, texting.

Then there is what I’ve come to fondly refer to as our booby-trapped infrastructure, those cracked and broken sidewalks with small bits of hard metal often poking up along them. Like the one I tripped over coming out of a grocery store on Lawrence Avenue last summer, going down faster than the thought “Oh, oh, this is going to be a hard fall” even managed to surface into consciousness.

And let’s not even talk about getting around Chicago as a pedestrian when it snows and ices over, when the plows push piles of snow up against sidewalks to get it out of the way of drivers, or when businesses and homeowners don’t shovel or de-ice their sidewalks.

If Chicago is to maintain its current status as an age-friendly city, may I suggest that the Mayor and the aldermen and their staffs and all city workers, especially those in streets and sanitation, be made to regularly walk the streets?  Maybe then they’ll realize how much in jeopardy that status could be.


*


Friday, February 3, 2017

A Housing Crisis Indeed

“A Housing Crisis for Seniors” by op-ed writer Allison Arieff appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times. I’m sorry to say that it’s among many articles, essays, and opinion pieces I've read on the subject recently.

I’m equally sorry to say that I began living the housing crisis—as are so many other seniors in the Chicago area, and beyond—in 2009, with the beginning of the recession, aka “the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

This lived situation, in large part, accounts for why I am a member of the Housing Committee of the newly forming Senior Village in Edgewater; the Village, one of a growing number in the Chicago area, will be providing a range of services to seniors living in four wards on Chicago’s northside.

And one of the most necessary services is helping people “age in community” by providing them safe and affordable housing.  Our committee is involved in researching exactly what those options might be and, more importantly, if they even come close to meeting the need.

So far, the news isn’t good. Which is why we have writers, academics, and developers often with a personal stake weighing in on the issue.

I’ve excerpted bits of Allison Arieff’s article, ones that express the urgent need to address the senior housing crisis in this country. I’ve added a comment or two following each.

~~~~~~~~

1. The population aged 65 and over is expected to grow to 79 million from 48 million in the next 20 years, and by 2035, one in three American households will be headed by someone 65 or older (and 9.3 million of those will be one-person households like my relative’s). A report just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, “Projects and Implications for a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035 Housing,” reveals that this demographic shift will increase the need for affordable, safe housing that is well connected to services way beyond what current supply can meet.

Not much to say here, really, other than that this population shift is described by many as a “silver tsunami.” And with good reason, yes?


2. …yet the unease about where one will end up as one ages is not at all unfounded. Better housing for older people exists at the lowest and the highest ends of the economic spectrum — for those who can afford luxury options and those who qualify for aid.

Yes, it’s the wide middle-class who is being most affected by the shortage of affordable senior housing.


3. Thoughtfully designed housing for older adults is not being created on a scale commensurate with the growing need. It’s not a market many architects or developers have embraced.

I will occasionally read or hear about some in these professions who are embracing it, although many do so from personal experience. They have family members--parents, grandparents, perhaps aunts and uncles--who need to find suitable housing as they age.

As for the forces that drive this lack of appropriately designed houses for older adults, they may have to be addressed by housing policies that would encourage these professionals to "embrace" that market.


4. But less than a quarter of older adults live in high-density areas, so demand is likely to increase for new housing options within existing suburbs and rural communities.

While I live in and address urban issues related to aging, what this article does is point out the need for senior housing options in the suburbs and more rural areas, places where current zoning laws need to be addressed, along with the huge dependence on the automobile for getting around.


5. Every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 people will reach age 65. That companies aren’t scrambling to exploit this market is not only unfortunate for their bottom line, but almost certainly treacherous, eventually, for all of us.

Not sure “treacherous” is too strong a word to describe the situation if both government and business fail to act.

To read the entire New York Times article, click here: