When you hear the word “senior,” do you immediately think: Gray hair? Transportation? Tai chi?
The opportunities and challenges of an aging population are rarely explored in-depth in policy planning and budget discussions. Citizens are often first introduced to aging-related issues when they or someone they love begins to grow older.
The thing is, nearly everyone gets older.
The 77 million Baby Boomers in America collectively will present the aging issue to the country on a scale not seen in the history of the United States. Collectively, seniors hold more than 60 percent of the national wealth and will contribute $8 trillion in monetary and volunteer value to the country in the next 20 years. Yet, according to Feeding America, in 2014, 10 percent of seniors (4.6 million older adults age 65 and older) lived below the poverty line.
While there have been progress made in how to support seniors, such as the recent Congressional passage and reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, there exists a need to constantly elevate the voice of seniors at the local, regional, state and national levels.
The Council Of Older Persons (COOP) has a 75 year history as standing committee of The Center for Community Solutions. Comprised of well-respected, influential leaders of about 50 senior organizations across Greater Cleveland, it serves as an advocate and educator on important issues facing seniors at the local and regional scale. COOP is in a unique position to influence the community conversation that often looks at the liabilities and limitations of older adults and persons with disabilities. Instead, COOP encourages everyone to view these individuals and the systems that serve with and for them as assets to the community.
COOP is proud to serve as the Community Partner for Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, because we know the importance of seniors to our community. By 2030, seniors over the age of 60+ will represent more than 31 percent of Cuyahoga County population and will number more than 30 percent in almost half of Ohio counties. The conversation surrounding seniors and quality of life is an important one: accessible public transportation, access to healthy food, thriving in walkable communities. The need to engage and enjoy the process of aging is a timely one for our region.
As a region, not only is it important to understand the population served by senior organizations, it also is important to acknowledge the aging and disability providers as priority stakeholders in the future of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.
Earlier this year, COOP sponsored held a panel discussion at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging called “Coffee With the County” featuring Dr. Richard Jones, Administrator for the Cuyahoga County Department of Senior and Adult Services; Ms. Valeria Harper, Vice President of Operations for the Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County; and, remarks from Cuyahoga County Executive Budish. The conversation centered around current efforts to encourage seniors to successfully age in place, as well as support behavior that contributes to the physical and mental well-being of seniors in our region.
Similarly, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has long been an advocate, researcher and educator of policy makers and community organizations of what they can do to create communities where seniors can not only survive, but thrive.
We welcome Ms. Jenkins to Cleveland and appreciate the City Club for bringing her to Cleveland to share her story. Enjoy the program.