Guest columnist Emily Campbell is chief operation officer for the Center for Community Solutions.
Older adults are key to a vibrant and inclusive community.
While we continue to make progress to improve the prospects of children and their families, there are a growing number of Cuyahoga County residents ages 65 and better who are living in poverty.
Addressing their needs can provide benefits for the whole community.
More older Ohioans are aging at home, but many do so in poverty
Today, there are more Cuyahoga County residents over the age of 60 than there are children under the age of 18. This is a result of the aging of the Baby Boomers, demographic trends, increasing lifespans and the fact that people are remaining independent for much longer than was possible in previous generations.
There has also been a significant shift away from the institutionalization of older adults in nursing facilities toward providing home- and community-based supports and services.
This saves taxpayers money and fits with what most residents want for themselves.
Sadly, the number and share of older adults living in poverty in Cuyahoga County has grown since the Great Recession of the mid-2000s, even as poverty for other ages fell.
COVID-19 didn’t interrupt the trends, and in 2020, more than 24,000 Cuyahoga County residents over the age of 65 lived in poverty, accounting for more than one of every 10 older adults, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
There are older adults struggling financially in every community in Cuyahoga County, and more poor seniors live in the suburbs than in the city of Cleveland.
Older adults can bring stability to neighborhoods
People over the age of 65 are more likely than any other age group to be homeowners. One-third of families who own their homes in Cuyahoga County are headed by an older adult.
More than 93 percent of residents over age 65 are living in the same place as last year, and the vast majority of people would prefer to remain in their home and community as they age.
The same amenities that make a neighborhood a good place to grow old makes a neighborhood a good place to grow up. These include availability of green space and opportunities for physical activity, recreation and learning, nearby and fully stocked grocery stores and pharmacies, and low crime.
Parents with strollers and adults who need a walker for a little extra stability both benefit from sidewalks that are in good repair.
Aging in place requires community supports to ensure that homes are well maintained and modified for safety. Most older adults are their own landlord, so there is great need for outside help.
There are some clear paths forward. The Age-Friendly framework explores livability and seeks to create a community that is inclusive of people of all ages. The City of Cleveland is designated as an Age-Friendly community by AARP and the World Health Organization, and Cuyahoga County has begun the process.
Cities and counties across the country have embraced an Age-Friendly approach, and we can learn from their successes. The future of our community depends on it.
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