Older Adults
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Dear Mayor, How Will You Support Older Adults?

September 7, 2021
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By: Dabney K. Conwell

Dear Mayor:

Congratulations!! As you consider your first plan for the city, I would like to provide you a bit of insight of the largest demographic in the City of Cleveland. The residents 60+ years of age or older makes up almost 30 percent of the total population. While the population is living longer, many older adults are not aging well. The burdens of food and housing insecurity, social isolation, effects of chronic illnesses and the lack of caregiver support are contributing factors to their inability to live as many wish, independently and in their community of choice. Eighty-five percent of older adults worry they will not have that choice.

By addressing these key areas, you will ensure older adults are not only living longer but doing so with dignity, health and wellness.

To ensure older adults can age well, I recommend addressing the following:

Food Insecurity• Reduce the barriers that older adults experience when attempting to enroll in the SNAP program. Barriers include transportation, lack of technology and technology literacy. • Address food deserts within communities.• Support food provisions for all older adults who are food insecure. • Universal food programs for older adults who are living with chronic diseases.

Caregiver Support• Fund a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible. • Provide information to caregivers about available services.• Ensure financial assistance to caregivers. • Assist caregivers in gaining access to services.• Provide support for individual counseling, organization of support groups and caregiver training respite care.

Housing Insecurity• Ensure there is affordable housing for older adults in mixed-income communities. • Ensure essential services are available to older adults in their homes. • Ensure home modifications are accessible to all older adults to make their homes age-friendly. • Create and support financial counseling programs.• Invest in public-private partnerships for regional planning.

Social Isolation• Publicly acknowledge social isolation and its impact on one’s mental and physical health. • Increase access to social settings for older adults.• Utilize wellness opportunities (e.g., volunteer caregiving, health and nutrition education) to assess and engage older adults.

Please engage the senior provider network to partner with you and your staff to further advance this work on behalf of the older adults within our community.

By addressing these key areas, you will ensure older adults are not only living longer but doing so with dignity, health and wellness. Please engage the senior provider network to partner with you and your staff to further advance this work on behalf of the older adults within our community. I look forward to your bold strategies that will incorporate each of these elements into your Year 1 plan for the city. Once again, congratulations.

Dabney K. ConwellVice President, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging Board Member, The Center for Community Solutions

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