Late shift: Naperville’s increasing senior presence

Susan Frick Carlman
scarlman@stmedianetwork.com | @scarlman
Aug. 8 1:59 p.m.
Healthy, wealthy, wise

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will be the keynote speaker at a conference for seniors set for 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 12 at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St.

The event, titled “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise,” is being planned by Naperville-Lisle Triad, a collaboration of law enforcement, community groups and local seniors that works to empower older residents through involvement, education, health and safety initiatives.

The morning will feature a discussion by Madigan of ways seniors can avoid being victimized by scammers and others who prey on older people. In addition, community planner Loretto Cowhig of the Northeastern Illinois Agency on Aging will talk about “Navigating the Medicare Maze” and attorney Linda Strohschein will present “State of the Estate.”

Some three dozen organizations that serve seniors will have displays at the conference, and raffle prizes are in the plans as well. Walk-in registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., and space is limited.

For more information, call 630-355-2786 or visit www.naperville-lisle-triad.org.

The face of Naperville has taken on a touch of maturity.

As part of discussions aimed at gauging how effectively the city is meeting the needs of its older residents, staff member Amy Emery recently took a look at census data, and noted a significant shift in the population’s age.

U.S. Census Bureau data show that the number of Naperville residents age 65 and older rose by 55 percent between 2000 and 2010. The city’s overall head count was on the rise during that decade as well, but it increased by less than 10.7 percent over the same time span. And with the nearly two decade-long post-World War II population surge generally given a birth date of 1946, the senior population data does not include many “baby boomers,” whose aging will have a dramatic impact on the figures.

“The numbers are increasing, and with those numbers are going to come increasing needs,” said Jenny Dawley, senior services director for Naperville Township.

Emery, assistant to the city manager, said in a memo that an even more informative illustration of Naperville’s increasing senior presence can be found at the household level.

“There is a definite shift in household composition between 2000 and 2010,” Emery said, alluding to a graphic incorporated into her report. “Of the 50,009 households reported in Naperville in 2010, seniors were present in 16.6 percent of the households, a 58 percent increase since 2000.”

Living locally

In many cases, seniors are able to find communities designed just for them if they wish. Three apartment complexes in Naperville — Ogden Manor, Martin Avenue Apartments and Charles Court — operate on a nonprofit basis to provide housing for low-income seniors, and several new developments have been built, or are slated for construction soon, to offer independent living, assisted living and memory care housing options within the city.

Assorted organizations in the community also have risen to the challenge of ensuring the growing population of older residents’ needs are met, some of them putting services in place years ago. Naperville Township provides subsidized transportation and reduced-cost access to RTA routes for seniors. Its senior services division also loans out medical equipment and offers referrals for assistance with taxes, utility bills and other needs often encountered by older residents.

Similarly, the Naperville Park District has built its senior-focused offerings. After convening focus groups in the summer of 2012, the district established a new program guide for seniors; renovated the lounge and game room in the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center; launched new programs catering to its older patrons; and added discounted lunches to bingo days. The changes were credited with a 75 percent upswing in senior program participation during 2013.

Although focus group work and establishment of a new board or commission could yet lie ahead for city officials looking to confirm it, the community’s service infrastructure might prove sufficient.

“Historically, the city of Naperville has played a limited role as a direct social service provider to any segments of its population — seniors, children, disabled, chemically dependent, etc.,” Emery said in her memo. “Rather, the city works in partnership with the townships, Park District, counties, state, private sector, and non-profit organizations to direct residents in need to available services and amenities.”

Getting organized

According to Dawley, much more coordinated direction will be needed in the coming years.

“I think we need to do a better job of knowing what’s out there for seniors,” she said, adding that she speaks daily with people wondering about resources they can tap as they turn 65, or how their parents’ needs can be better accommodated. “Every lead-in sentence always ends up with ‘what’s available?’”

Some sort of mechanism needs to be established, Dawley said, to inventory the resources in place now, and determine how to help seniors access them. A needs assessment of some sort also is necessary, she said, particularly as more baby boomers become seniors.

“As the numbers of seniors increase, we’re going to get into more and more and more need, and I think if we don’t do some type of reference thing, then we’re going to be in trouble,” Dawley said.

A directory of services — similar to “Age Well DuPage,” a 156-page publication printed by the county, but focused on Naperville — would do the trick, she said. The county guide, however, has been out of print since its last run in 2012 and now can only be found online.

“Unfortunately for a lot of seniors, they are not computer-savvy, so that information is kind of lost on them,” Dawley said.

She noted, however, that baby boomers as a group will be much more comfortable on the Internet, and that format will be more convenient for them.

“Since Naperville has grown so large and since the senior population has also grown, I think if we could work on putting together something like that, specifically for the city of Naperville, then we would have a start,” she said, adding that formation of a board or commission of some kind might prove sensible as well. “I think it’s something that needs to be considered, I really do. I don’t have a concrete definition of what. But I think a dialogue needs to be started, because we’re all aging.”

The City Council is expected to go over a staff report and recommendations for addressing seniors’ needs during its Aug. 19 meeting.

Tags:
Healthy, wealthy, wise

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will be the keynote speaker at a conference for seniors set for 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 12 at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St.

The event, titled “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise,” is being planned by Naperville-Lisle Triad, a collaboration of law enforcement, community groups and local seniors that works to empower older residents through involvement, education, health and safety initiatives.

The morning will feature a discussion by Madigan of ways seniors can avoid being victimized by scammers and others who prey on older people. In addition, community planner Loretto Cowhig of the Northeastern Illinois Agency on Aging will talk about “Navigating the Medicare Maze” and attorney Linda Strohschein will present “State of the Estate.”

Some three dozen organizations that serve seniors will have displays at the conference, and raffle prizes are in the plans as well. Walk-in registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., and space is limited.

For more information, call 630-355-2786 or visit www.naperville-lisle-triad.org.

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