Why Communication is so Important to an Age Friendly Community

In the On Point podcast, “Designing Communities for an Aging America,” one key theme was communication. Ruth Finkelstein,  professor of health policy and management at the Columbia University Aging Center and former director of the Age-Friendly New York City Initiative, emphasized this point when she spoke. This message about communication was spurred by one caller’s plea.

An elderly woman called in and said that she has vision problems; she is going blind. She needs help with things like reading her mail and going to the bank. She seeks help from her husband, but he is getting older himself. She expressed frustration in not knowing where her community’s resources for older people were. “I can’t look things up in the phone directory,” she said.

This is why Finkelstein emphasized communication. Messages could be advertised on the radio or as public service announcements, which is good for people with vision problems. She also recommended reaching out to a local representative or a senior center for a referral.

“We have a continuum of functioning for all ages,” she said. “One of the things we have to be thinking about is communication.”

Kathryn Lawler, director of the Aging and Health Resources Division and director of the Area Agency on Aging in Atlanta, recommended calling Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 or visiting eldercare.gov.

Getting older does not signify weakness. We just may need accommodations that we didn’t need when we were younger, host Sacha Pfeiffer points out.

Finkelstein again chimed in about the importance neighborhoods. As we get older, our networks shrink for various reasons. Going to the store is an important social outlet. This also applies going to get a cup of coffee and the newspaper. She has identified some of the characteristics of age friendly businesses like having a human being answer the phone.

Iowa City won the award for the most age friendly city for the small metros, and Madison, WI won for large metros. The key characteristics of these cities are that health, transportation, and housing are advanced. There are pros and cons to each city. New York City is expensive, but it has good public transportation. Los Angeles doesn’t really have public transit to get to doctors or schools.

It is important to create these networks. Maybe there is something an older person does very well like music. They could share this with a younger generation in a library program. No matter what, communication about these programs and initiatives is chiefly important.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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