In 2009, Governor Perdue launched an initiative entitled, Living and Aging Well, that would eventually become the bedrock of subsequent age preparation state plans and initiatives. In 2011, following six regional roundtable conferences, the Governor’s Conference on Aging was launched. This report is the result of that conference and roundtables, including over 600 participants from all sectors of North Carolina. Community planners and local governments can learn from Governor Perdue’s approach and the paper’s conclusions creating cohesive and unified planning within their own regions.
Three-fourths (71 of 100) of all North Carolina’s counties will “have more people over age 60 than under age 17” by 2030 (page 4). North Carolina has brought together leaders from all facets of the state to examine age-related issues and recommendations related to: policy, access & choice in services, finance, home construction, transportation, civic volunteerism, and safety. The report takes an unflinching look at the gaps/needs relative to those topic areas statewide, as well as to existing services that are working. In doing so, it is able to narrow needs and foci for strategic thinking, budgeting and future planning.
Other report highlights include:
- The report makes an excellent distinction regarding the provision of services. It states, “When an individual needs to access services and supports, what is important for them often takes priority over what is important to them. Where the services are extensive and somewhat intrusive, what is important to people can be lost. From the perspective of public policy, not enough service, the wrong service, or a service not provided in a way that the individual can use can be as wasteful of public funds as too much service” (page 10). By focusing on the “to” community planners can increase value on the “for.”
- North Carolina recognizes the challenges and opportunities that come with an aging population. The report examines how to capture the coming “brain drain” as Boomers retire, and fiscal issues like adding “two legs” (pursuit of earnings and public assistance) to the “three-legged stool” (private retirement accounts, savings and assets, and Social Security) in retirement planning. One new interdisciplinary initiative is happening at the University of North Carolina, which in coordination with the Bryan School of Business and the North Carolina Center for Entrepreneurship, is educating on the “business of aging” (capturing the business opportunities associated with aging).
- The report also lists three goals in housing, namely increasing universal design in construction, creating affordable options for living in those homes, and placing those homes in the context of livability (i.e., access to goods and services). Following models like Beacon Hill, Falconbridge Village and Ashville (page 26), the report explores zoning, transportation and remodeling options that can make communities “livable for all ages” (page 31).
How to Use
This report is the best example for community planners, leaders, and local governments of what happens when there strong leadership, frank assessment, and innovative thinking that results from serious discussion on age preparedness. Read and use this report as a model for your own conferences and roundtables, as well as your age plans.