Senior Living: Aging population enough reason for city commission

I don’t always read the newspaper that we receive on Sunday. (Thanks 24/7 cable news!) One of my friends alerted me to a recent article written by Mark Muller, of Reuters, that discusses, in part, how the trend toward seniors aging in place can impact the community.

Muller cited a report prepared by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University that predicted the number of households headed by someone older than 70 will increase by 42 percent during the next 10 years.

The report stated that the “critical point is that most of these households will be aging in place, not moving to retirement communities, and this will have a dramatic effect on the support services people will need as they age. Aging in place could create problems for suburbs that are designed around driving. There will be a need for a better network of services for transportation, health and other services.”

These facts are further confirmation that efforts to establish a Senior Commission in Naperville are timely. We know there are about 14,721 seniors here (from a recent marketing survey) in Naperville. The number jumps to 27,802 if you consider those older than 54. Just think about the issues the city is going to face if these individuals decide to stay in their homes and age in place.

How will a commission help?

Commission members will be knowledgeable representatives of organizations that provide services to seniors — people who are dedicated to advocating for the senior population. Its structure will allow for giving needs and issues in-depth attention. We will develop a coordinated network of resources to be among the first to learn of issues affecting seniors and disseminate this information to the senior community in a timely manner.

What will the commission structure look like? Ultimately, we hope to have five committees; however, we will activate them one at a time. They include:

The Collaboration Committee would develop and maintain partnerships with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, academic training programs and faith-based organizations to share ideas and experiences and further improve offerings to seniors.

The Housing Committee would create a supportive housing structure that would allow seniors to continue to live in their own homes as long as they are able, and advocate for and support a variety of residential senior-living alternatives, policies and services that support a good quality of life and meet the needs of seniors as they age.

The Transportation Committee would research models used by other local governments, analyze costs to both the citizens and the government, identify funding that might be available, and develop a system that is affordable and adaptable to the needs of an aging population.

The Health Committee would work with the local medical community to keep seniors current with changes in the health care available to them.

The Education Committee would develop a network of contacts that would enable us to disseminate information to the senior community about topics of interest and need, and provide educational programs and seminars.

It is important to understand that it is not our intention to duplicate any services already provided to seniors. Nor are we looking to involve the city in providing services directly. We understand the budgetary constraints of government and would work to minimize the costs to the city.

Ambitious undertaking? You bet!

Can we do it? We can!

But we really need your input and support for this to be successful. Weigh in with Mayor A. George Pradel at 630-420-6018 or one of the City Council members at 630-548-2983. Volunteer to help by calling 630-848-3613. And attend the Aug. 19 council meeting, when city staff will present their report. Remember to speak your mind, too.

Don’t forget, you can always call the Senior Help Desk at 630-848-3613 with any comments or questions.

Karen Courney has lived in Naperville since 1970. Contact her at sunseniorliving@gmail.com.

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