Exploring How to Ride the Age Wave
By Emily Muttillo 
Applied Research Fellow
November 8, 2017

At the Celebration of Human Services held on October 20, 2017, three experts on Aging joined the “Riding the Age Wave” panel to discuss the past, present and future needs of older adults and services available. Mary McNamara, Director of the Cleveland Department of Aging, Toni Gelsomino, Director of Lakewood Health and Human Services and Susan Sigmon, Vice President of Long Term and Managed Care of Direction Home Akron Canton participated in an engaging session moderated by Maria Thompson of Fifth Third Bank.

The panel reminded the audience that federal funding through the Older Americans Act provides dollars for many of the local programs that benefit older adults including home-delivered meals, transportation, and supportive services. Additional funding for programs that support older adults comes from Community Development Block Grants, private foundations, and individual donors. In 77 of the 88 counties in Ohio, local communities also receive funding through senior specific levies or health and human service levies that allocate a portion of the levy collection to older adult services. Unfortunately, these funding streams have not kept pace with the older adult population which is growing in size and age.

Audience members were asked to share what they believe to be the biggest issues facing our community. Concerns around housing came up more than any other topic.

The panel discussed the challenges of shrinking funding and a growing population. With the “Age Wave” upon us (The “Age Wave” is a term used to describe the growing older adult population as Baby Boomers grow older), and an increased focus on keeping older adults in their homes for as long they desire, more older adults will continue to need more supportive community services. It is expected that by the year 2030, for the first time in our community’s history, there will be more older adults in Cuyahoga County than children.

How will our community keep pace with the increased demand for service?

Possible solutions suggested by the panel include:

  • Increased funding (surprise!)
  • Neighbor-to-neighbor support, both informal and through organized efforts
  • Creative collaborations among traditional aging network agencies and other non-profits, government agencies, and for-profit business
  • Home repair programs that invest funds in cities interested in maintaining historic homes while creating functional spaces for all ages and abilities
To read about other sessions at the Celebration of Human Services held on October 20, 2017, please click here.