Abraham Lincoln may have said it best, “And in the end, it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”
Today, one in ten Americans – about 35 million people – are 65 or over.
Within 30 years, that number will double, one in five Americans – about 70 million people – will be 65 or over.
We are in the midst of a demographic revolution fueled by a combination of longevity (Americans are living longer – the average lifespan increased 30 years in the 20th Century) and aging baby boomers (at 75 million, the largest generation in American history makes up one third of the country’s total population).
As is usually the case, there are some strong opinions on the subject.
On one end of the spectrum, the gray dawn or aging crisis has been added to a growing list of global hazards, along with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, other types of high-tech terrorism, deadly super viruses, extreme climate change, the financial, economic and political aftershocks of globalization, and the violent ethnic explosions waiting to be detonated in today’s unsteady new democracies by economists like Peter G. Peterson, who believes the graying of the developed world’s population may actually do more to reshape our collective future than any of the above.
In contrast, rather than seeing the aging population as a potential problem, others are looking at it as an opportunity to build better communities for all.
No matter how you look at aging, we are all getting older. It’s a fact of life that means we all have a stake in the future. There will always be life to live.
Currently, twelve percent of Indiana residents are 65 and older - 115,000 are older than 85. When you take into account those who are 55 and older, 700,000 people are approaching retirement age, and many plan to continue living in the state.
The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), chaired by Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, creates housing opportunity, generates and preserves assets, and revitalizes neighborhoods by investing financial and technical resources in the development efforts of qualified partners throughout Indiana.
Last month, IHCDA officially designated Valparaiso as one of three Communities for a Lifetime (CfaL).
A Community for a Lifetime is a place that promotes physical, social, mental and economic well-being for persons with all abilities, across the entire lifespan.
The program, the first of its kind in Indiana, awarded three communities – Huntington, Linton and Valparaiso - planning grants ranging from $10,000-$16,000 in March of 2012 to study ways to make their communities friendly for residents of all ages and to generate Implementation plans.
IHCDA reviewed the plans and selected all three to receive funding to help achieve their goals. In addition to the implementation funding, IHCDA will be working with each community to identify further partners to assist with their Communities for a Lifetime initiatives.
“This initiative puts Indiana at the leading edge of the growing age-friendly community movement,” Dr. Philip Stafford, director of the Center on Aging and Community at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community and adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington, who chairs the Communities for a Lifetime committee and is also the author of Elderburbia: Aging with a Sense of Place in America, said. “We look forward to path-breaking work by these three communities.”
Pillars of the Community: Established through a partnership between the Valparaiso Department of Parks and Pines Village Retirement Communities, ElderStyle Valparaiso is an initiative that engages many sectors - city departments, service providers, businesses, health care professionals, nonprofit organizations, and faith communities - to build a network and leverage local resources to create a vibrant and healthy environment for older persons in our community. To learn more, call 219.465.1591.