Age Friendly Communities: A Place to Grow Up, A Place to Grow Old!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Main News Photo

When my husband turned 50 the invitation to join AARP came right along in the mail with his birthday cards. He was so excited to get his AARP card because he loved the idea of getting a price break any time he flashed it around. When I got mine, I have to admit, I wasn’t so excited . . . it was just another reminder that I was getting older along with the gray hair, wrinkles and an ornery left knee.

I was interested, though, in learning about “Age Friendly Communities” at my last economic development meeting. The statistics are pretty amazing. In Hand County (along with 18 other counties in SD) 45-55% of its population is over 50. And 55% of consumer spending is by people over 50 years old. The employment rate of 50-64 year olds is 73%. They make up 40% of the employment, 45% of labor income, and 53% of state and local tax revenue. Now that’s economic impact! This is why it is important (economically speaking) to do a self-check in our communities to see how age friendly we are.

Some common traits of an age friendly community are:

  1. Easy access – A compact community has the grocery store, pharmacy, hospital, park and church within 1 mile and reduces the need to drive.
  2. Transportation availability when needed.
  3. Health Care – access to health, mental health, and home health care as well as emphasis on wellness.
  4. Housing – being able to live in a safe, secure home that is affordable and efficient.
  5. Social Participation/Inclusion – considering “intergenerational” activities throughout the community.

I am happy to report that Miller took the initiative years ago and started its journey toward being age friendly. For starters, our small community is naturally compact. Our grocery store, pharmacy, hospital, parks and churches are not only within 1 mile, but more likely within 1 or 2 blocks! We also have a community van that can be used by seniors or the disabled for a $3.00 suggested donation for each trip within the Miller and St. Lawrence area. Our newly remodeled hospital complex provides for the health, mental health and home health care while at the same time boasting a great wellness center with the latest exercise equipment for all abilities. Miller also has three multi-family dwellings for those age 55 and older or for those with disabilities. Two of these facilities are also congregate meal sites where all seniors are invited for a noon meal. All three multi-family dwellings are affordable and rent is based on income levels. Finally, our Friendship Center truly lives up to its name! It is not just a typical senior center, it is always welcoming new friends through breakfasts, potluck dinners, various card groups and of course daily pool playing! Miller Elementary School and Hand in Hand Daycare have welcomed the Foster Grandparent program allowing for grandparents to assist young children. Miller Elementary 6th graders visit the nursing home regularly through their “Adoptive Grandparent” program and other Miller School students visit and assist with various projects throughout the year.

Being an age friendly community welcomes families of all ages because what’s best for those age 55 and older is also best for any other ages! Miller and the surrounding area certainly provide a great place to grow up and now you know, a great place to grow old!

Category: From the Desk of Kecia Beranek