Creating Communities for All Ages in NYC

Nancy LeaMond — AARP Executive Vice President, State and National Group — addresses an AARP-hosted forum of city leaders

Nancy LeaMond's remarks, as prepared for delivery in Manhattan on October 22, 2014, to an AARP-hosted Governing magazine forum featuring:

***

We’re here to talk about the aging of America. The aging of New York City. First, a personal disclaimer. 

My roots are in the tri-state area  — having grown up down the road in Milburn, New Jersey.

And while I’m a lifelong Yankees fan, I recently adopted the Washington Nationals as my new hometown team ... which is why, during this postseason, I’ll be catching up on Scandal and Downtown Abbey.

But in all sincerity, when I come to New York, it feels like I’m coming home. And I’m delighted to be with you today.

I would also like to acknowledge AARP Board Chair Carol Raphael. Carol is former President and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and she’s a resident of New York City.

Now, I know some of you think of AARP as the group that sends you a bunch of mail when you turn 50. And that’s true.

But you may not know that AARP is the largest membership organization in the country.

We have 38 million members — including 750,000 members in New York City.

And our most important work happens in states and communities.

That’s why we have a team of 20 staff and more than 2,500 volunteers in New York, led by our AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel.

And it’s also why we partnered with Governing [magazine]. Because we share a commitment to strengthening communities.

Since 2012, we’ve been on a road show with Governing — from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine.

Today actually represents our final event of 2014. 

And while every place is different, there are some common themes.

FIRST: Simply put, our country is aging. 

By 2030, 1 in 4 Americans will be over the age of 50. 

Every state is getting older. Even the “youngest” states like Utah and Alaska will see an increase in their older population by more than 30 percent over the next 20 years.

And as states are aging, so too are cities.

New York tops the charts, with 2.6 million people age 50-plus. 

And the oldest among us are growing.  New York has more people over the age of 65 than anywhere in the country.

In 20 years, the 65-plus population will double to 72 million. One in every five New Yorkers will be 65 or older.

SECOND: It’s not just that we’re getting older.  We’re doing it differently.

Indeed, we boomers have a new mindset about aging — it’s called denial.

As Nora Ephron said:  “There's a reason why 40, 50 and 60 don't look the way they used to. And it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise.  It's because of hair dye.”

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is up to 78 years —13 years past traditional retirement.

At AARP, we call it "the age of possibilities."

People are reimagining what to do with their lives, with these bonus years.

When we were younger, most of us assumed we’d work until 65 — then enjoy a few years in the sun.

But now, we have options. 

  • To keep working, or retire and volunteer in the community
  • To move away, or stay near friends and family
  • To hold onto empty nests, or downsize
  • To spend down assets, or leave money to kids and grandkids

Which brings me to my THIRD point: The collective wealth of Boomers  surpasses any generation before them.

This is age of the "longevity economy." New Yorkers over the age of 50 contribute to the economy in an outsize proportion to their share of the population.

There are roughly 1.5 million baby boomers in New York City. And they represent $100 billion in gross domestic product.

In fact, a 2011 study found that people 50 and older accounted for $70 billion in consumer spending in New York — half of all spending in the city.

Next page: Boomers are worth billions. »

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