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Mayors on Preparing for an Aging Population

The leaders of 108 cities answer a survey by AARP and the U.S. Conference of Mayors

In June 2016, AARP and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) asked the nation's mayors to complete a 25 question survey in order to, explains Tom Cochran, the USCM's CEO and executive director, "identify what resources, policy changes, and infrastructure developments are needed to make our cities more 'livable,' so that our older residents can choose to live out their lives in their own homes and communities, surrounded by family and friends and a vibrant social and cultural network, for as long as possible."

The USCM is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,393 such cities in the United States, each represented in the conference by its mayor.

The results of the 108-city survey, Preparing for Aging Populations in America's Cities: A Status Report on Aging in America, were released in January 2017 at the 85th Winter Meeting of the USCM in Washington, D.C., as part of the USCM Task Force on Aging. 

9 out of 10 mayors say aging issues are of high importance to them.

The number of people in the U.S. age 65 and over is now "somewhere north of 43 million," explains Cochran, adding that in the next four decades the number is reach more than 83 million.

"We know that almost everyone wants to live in a place where they can feel safe, have a good job, raise a family, get around easily, and engage with their community," notes Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president of Community, States and National Affairs. "The responses to this survey reinforce these points and reveal that mayors see several issues as the most important for their increasingly aging populations."

The top needs identified are:

  1. Easy access to health care and supportive services

  2. More housing options, affordable housing including accessory dwelling units, and active/assisted living communities

  3. Accessible and affordable public transportation

  4. Increased police presence and communication between police and community residents

  5. Housing located close to stores, transportation, health care facilities and other community services 

Says Cochran: "In the end, it turns out, what is best for the quality of life is much the same for our oldest citizens as it is for our youngest and everyone in between. Making cities more livable for our older citizens, ultimately, makes cities more livable for all of us."

Following, some key findings from the survey:

3 out of 4 mayors say having fitness activities for older adults is a top or high city priority.
Nearly 80 percent of mayors say having or establishing an aging-related task force is a top or high priority for their administration.
64 percent of mayors say having social activities that involve younger and older people spending time together is a top or high city priority.
3 out of 4 mayors say housing options for older adults, such as active adult communities, accessory dwelling units and assisted living, are top or high city priorities.
86 percent of mayors say coordinating transportation services for older adults and people with disabilities is a top or high city priority.
Nearly 70 percent of mayors say having policies to ensure that older adults can work for as long as they want or need to is a top or high city priority.