Must read Howard Gleckman’s piece on Forbes: “The Future of Age-Friendly Communities: Can They Do it All?”
He shares and analyzes an Institute for Research on Public Policy piece by Stephen Golant, titled “Age-Friendly Communities: Are We Expecting Too Much.” (IRPP Insight 5, Feb 2014 – .pdf)
Golant suggests two controversial ways these groups could focus their efforts. First, they should target their support to relatively healthy elders who are most likely to remain active and productive in their communities rather than rather than those who are extremely frail. And, he says, initiatives should target moderate income seniors rather than the very rich or very poor. Low-income elders, he says, already have access to social services.
The Golant piece is really thought-provoking and important for its challenge to those of us championing the notion of Age-Friendly principles, but I think he’s wrong in one important way.
The whole notion of narrowing the conversation to include trade-offs is an important heuristic perhaps for policy analysis, but it fails miserably as an organizing principle. And what the Age-Friendly movement needs most of all is organizing, bottom-up, asset-based approaches that include frail elders and individuals at all income levels.
What Golant wants us to consider in the abstract will lead to further ghetto-izing of the out-of-sight, out of mind status quo that represents the “aging in place” reality for many communities, especially those underserved areas where nursing homes have closed and there’s nothing but a frayed and uncoordinated home and community-based “system” left behind (e.g., Driven to Tiers).
I’m all in with Howard Gleckman’s closing:
The great benefit of grassroots initiatives is that they can focus on ideas most appropriate to their own communities. There will still be conflicts as groups battle over their own priorities but that may be a necessary step as the aging in place movement begins to mature.
I will just add: Can we bury the term “Aging in Place” once and for all?
Aging in Community is just so much better, recognizing the diversity of approaches that will emerge and the notion that nobody should age in isolation, most especially frail elders.
If you haven’t already, please watch the Aging Matters documentary and share it broadly. It is most excellent.