Vital Aging Network

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Will Your Community Support You as You Age?

by Bob Roepke, Former Mayor of Chaska

The Minnesota Department of Human Services estimates that Minnesota will contain more retirees than school-age children by 2020. By 2030, Minnesota’s 65+ population will be about 1,300,000, doubled from 2005. These numbers don’t lie.

As the boomers age, they are asking questions about their communities. For example, they ask, “What is my community doing to meet my needs as I grow older? What is my community doing to allow me to CONTINUE to be an active, vital member?” Their questions pose the challenge to Minnesota. Some communities are addressing these questions in thinking about and planning for community development. Other communities are looking for alternative ways to address this issue.

Having served for 18 years as the mayor of Chaska, being a lifelong member of that community, and holding a strong belief in the power of establishing a sense of community, I know the importance of Communities for a Lifetime.  My experiences demonstrated to me the necessity of developing supportive communities for people of all ages.

More and more communities are recognizing the changing needs of their populations and the importance of being a Community for a Lifetime (CFL). To me, CFL means design, development and implementation that reach out to address the needs of all people in communities. It is about making communities that are good places to grow up and grow old. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs coined the term Communities for a Lifetime when it championed an initiative to support local governments’ planning for the aging population.

Experience, knowledge and tools are available to communities that want to become Communities for a Lifetime through the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging and VAN. Communities need support for discussions about and planning for this shift in the population. Governmental bodies and citizens need to think about the ramifications of this change and to build the capacity to keep their population vital and members of their communities active now and into the future.

The statistics on aging and the needs of our communities are compelling. I hope all communities will embrace the vision of CFL. Making CFL a priority ultimately enhances the definition of community: a place that people want to be a part of and a place that values the concepts and spirit of the community. CFL helps you empower a vital segment of the community—those who are aging—and builds a sense of pride in your community. That pride is incredibly powerful in getting things done and delivering results.

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