What's Needed for a Vital Community?
Every community needs to determine for itself what will make their community a vital community. Promoting the values of vital aging — self-determination, self-sufficiency, involvement in the community, and personal enrichment — is a good place to start.
The discussions here about community support, economic security, health and independence, housing and transportation, volunteer service and civic involvement, and work options start to examine some of the elements of a vital community.
Older Adults: An Under-Used Resource
Active, mobile, young-old adults present great resources to a community but they are often not as engaged in the creative work of a community as they could be. Studies show that this group has a genuine drive to contribute to their communities in meaningful ways and to leave them better than they found them.
Communities Face Real Issues
While older adults represent a great resource to a community they also present challenges. As the number and proportion of older adults in our communities increase, more individuals will have:
- Chronic health issues
- Concerns about the stability of pensions and Social Security and medical coverage
- Changing housing needs
- Increased trepidation about mobility
To maximize individuals’ strengths and capacities, we need to develop federal, state, and local policies and programs that will address these issues. Everyone needs to be involved. Voting is one way that you can work on these issues indirectly. If you are employed, volunteer, or provide care for others, you have an opportunity to influence these issues more directly. Running for office or communicating with elected representatives is another way to use your influence to work on these issues.
This section includes the following pages:
- Community Support - Sharing strengths is critical to vital aging. As older adults, you and your peers have the knowledge and experience to organize yourselves and create supports for others in your communities.
- Economic Security - Frail elderly adults are less resilient when faced with change. Individuals living on a limited fixed income can find their situations particularly stressful. For many people, looking forward to long lives brings fear that the money will run out long before their bodies do.
- Health and Independence - We all want to remain healthy and independent as we age. Studies show that up to 70% of your physical and mental well-being is due to lifestyle choices. Active older adults are increasingly seeking good health through exercise, good diet, and an active life and therefore more able to contribute to vital communities.
- Housing and Transportation - A vital community needs to help individuals match housing with their physical abilities and personal needs. Community planners and housing developers must work with transportation planners to connect housing with transit.
- Volunteer Service and Civic Involvement - Opportunities for contributing to something larger than yourself and involvement in the civic culture are important aspects of a vital community. As the needed of this generation of volunteers are changing, agencies must seek new ways of making service attractive.
- Work Options - Recent trends show an increase in employment following retirement, particularly part-time employment and entrepreneurship. However, even though older workers have skills, habits, and attitudes that match employers’ priorities, employers' practices often discourage older workers from seeking employment or continuing on the job. This needs to change.