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Creating an Age-Friendly Des Moines

Iowa’s capital city region has done its research and is ready to act

The Des Moines Age-Friendly Initiative is a community-based effort designed to ensure that the Greater Des Moines, Iowa, area incorporates the infrastructure, design and community resources that will be needed to accommodate the region’s growing 50+ population.

A 30-member advisory committee guides the initiative and represents a number of community, government and civic organizations. Leadership from the City of Des Moines, Des Moines University, Aging Resources of Central Iowa and AARP Iowa collaborate on the day-to-day administration of the project.

In a four-page executive summary of its 2013 report to the community, the initiative identified key research findings and its priority activities for 2014-2016.

The summary also includes highlights from an AARP household survey in which 724 age 50-plus residents of Greater Des Moines/Polk County gauge the livability of their neighborhoods and identify areas that need improvement.

Key Points

The survey report's highlights include the following survey responses:

  • Respondents have lived in the area for an average of 41 years. Seven out of 10 (69 percent) say they are “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to move within the next 10 years.

  • Forty percent of respondents say it is “extremely important” or “very important” for them to stay in their neighborhood, and 64 percent say it is “extremely important” or “very important” for them to stay in their home as they age.

  • Nearly half of the respondents are employed, and 45 percent of the residents said they were “extremely likely” or “very likely” to put off full-time retirement for as long as possible.

  • About seven in 10 Des Moines/Polk County residents age 50+ are grandparents and, of these residents, over a quarter say they help with the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for these children. Another one in eight (13 percent) says they provide care to the children or grandchildren of their friends or neighbors.

  • Eighty percent say the state of Iowa needs to do more to ensure that people age 50-plus can continue to work for as long as they want or need to, regardless of age.

How to Use

The survey report and the initiative's summary document provide useful insights from older adults in the Greater Des Moines/Polk County area that can be used by local officials, planners and various organizations to help make the region more age-friendly.

The survey’s questionnaire (which begins on page 23 of the report) can be adapted to evaluate other communities.

Research published: November 2013. Summary by Josh Perlman, AARP

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