Communities Struggle to Meet Needs of Aging Population

June 2, 2011 ( - A new report finds that, due to the financial consequences from the recent recession, many U.S. communities have been unable to make significant progress in preparing to meet the needs of the country’s rapidly aging population.

“The Maturing of America – Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population,” a follow-up to a survey conducted in 2005, reveals that at best, communities have managed to maintain the status quo for the past six years due to the decline in the overall economy and local government budgets, according to a press release. The report, which was released by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), also reveals that important advances have been made despite these challenges, including a dramatic increase in specialized training for emergency and public safety staff in dealing with older adults; growth of in-home supportive services; greater support for advanced education and retooling for the workforce; and expanded volunteer opportunities.  

Key findings from the report include: 

  • Local Governments Are Economically Strapped: In 2010, only 42% of jurisdictions indicated they were experiencing some growth—a drop from the 67% reporting some growth in 2005; in 2010, 30% of local governments experienced some decline – a nearly three-fold increase from the 11% that reported that they experienced some decline in 2005.  
  • Transportation is a Top Challenge: Programs that provide transportation are reported by over 80% of respondents, but only 63% of communities report having sidewalk systems linking residences and essential services. Programs on the Pacific Coast lead the country.  
  • Public Safety Services Have Improved: Local governments with specialized training for public safety/emergency staff in dealing with older adults more than doubled, to 59% from 24% in 2005. But, communities with plans in place for evacuation of older adults, decreased to 71% from 81% in 2005. 
  • Aging/Human Services Improve: There has been significant growth in availability of in-home support services for older adults since 2005, to 77% from 71%. Local governments report a drop in availability of a single-entry-point model for services, to 37% from 42% in 2005.  


According to the report, local communities—even under economic duress—have the means to develop policies, programs and services that will increasingly make them “good places to grow up and grow old.” Specific recommendations include the thoughtful adaptation of zoning and land-use policies, coordination of housing and transportation planning, and enhancement of programs and services that keep older adults actively engaged in the community.   

“This report underscores the importance of addressing the needs of an aging population at the local level,” said Dennis White, president of MetLife Foundation, which supported the study, in the press release. “The good news is that there are many actions community leaders can take right away—that don’t require additional resources—to prepare for bolder, more comprehensive services for older citizens.”   

More on the report is available at