How an Aging Population is Changing our Cities

Local and national governments have long focused on making communities good places for families, children, young adults and the disadvantaged. But as America ages – by 2050, it is estimated that more than 32 million Americans will be over the age of 80 – there is a demand for national planning on how to best care for seniors and the elderly while avoiding a national debt crisis.

Chronic disease, disabilities, and the need for personal care will place a financial stress on governments. And as retirement takes place en masse, fewer workers will be left to fill in the gaps and pay for pensions.

Many are calling on national governments to face the music when it comes to the growing population of seniors. KPMG’s recent Global Healthcare Practice Report says that without a national agenda, the healthcare systems of many countries could become overwhelmed.

Local governments will also need to plan for the aging population in their own communities. According to Richard Florida, managing editor of The Atlantic magazine, American seniors are mobile, willing to move long distances, and attracted to urban centers. Cities hold the same appeal for older people as they do for younger; amenities and attractions such as transit, museums, restaurants, and parks are desirable. These communities will need to plan accordingly for aging populations, insuring they are prepared to take care of them.

But it’s not just governments that need to be planning; it’s individual citizens, too. A recent poll of Americans over 40 by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that two-thirds have done little or no planning for their future as they age. Three in ten say they’d rather not think about it; only a quarter think it’s very likely that they will require assistance in caring for themselves. Not so. Figures show that close to 70 percent of Americans will require a form of long-term care at some point after turning 65.