The On Point podcast with guest Sacha Pfeiffer was called “Designing Communities for an Aging America,” touching on age friendly communities. The report focused on how communities can do a better job making communities age friendly and what communities are doing that is good for an aging population.
One caller from Milwaukee, WI said that she is having trouble with her vision and is gradually going blind. She expressed her concern on the podcast that she needs more help than she has right now. She needs someone to read her mail to her twice a week. She needs somebody to go to the bank for her. The concern in her voice was palpable.
Kathryn Lawler, director of the Aging and Health Resources Division and director of the Area Agency on Aging in Atlanta, gave out a phone number that could be helpful to many older people. The number was 800-677-1116. The website is eldercare.gov. It is called the Elder Care Locator. The purpose of the nationwide service is that it “connects older Americans and their caregivers with information on senior services.” There are likely more services and opportunities in your community than you know about. There were many organizations designed to help older people in the Milwaukee community.
Pfeiffer touched on an important point that we have to stop thinking old means frail. We may need accommodations we didn’t need when we were younger, but we’re not weak.
Another kind of program that is especially interesting is one that is going on at a library in Massachusetts. Older people can check in as an expert. Then local schools will go to the library and check out “a living book.” It might be a historical event that they have lived through or an area of work they have done their whole lives. Ruth Finkelstein, who helped design the New York City age friendly initiative, thought the idea was great and said she would adopt it in her community.
Another idea is to open the mall early before the stores open for walking. Elderly residents can come and walk, especially when it’s cold or raining. It gives seniors a friendly environment and a social outlet. It is important that the elderly don’t feel socially isolated.
Local colleges can also provide free classes for senior citizens, who can pass down their knowledge to younger citizens. It is an intergenerational interaction, like the foster care program that involves seniors in the care of foster children. Local pools can also set up senior citizen swimming hours, where they can be around people in their same age group and don’t have to feel self-conscious about how they look.
These are all great ideas that go beyond simply putting in more benches and longer crosswalk signals.