Aging Austin Comes With Unique Challenges
Austinites may be used to seeing the city’s name in a variety of number one lists. But this number one is on a list few of us may think about: out of the 100 largest metro areas in the country, Austin has the fastest growing number of people who are between 55 and 64 years old.
On a different list – the one with the fastest growing number of adults reaching retirement age (65+) – Austin is number 2.
Earlier this year, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell created a task force to focus on the challenges of an aging population, and to propose solutions to those challenges.
Family Eldercare CEO Angela Atwood is on the task force. She says one goal is to make Austin welcoming to people of all age groups.
“There’s so much benefit for seniors and for children to get to interact together and some families and cultures still have great tradition around that and parts of our community are very isolated and don’t have those opportunities,” Atwood says.
Atwood says isolation can accelerate the mental and physical deterioration of older people. Demographic data from the city shows one contributing factor to the isolation of seniors is that they’re leaving areas where services are close by. They’re moving into more affordable, but further out, communities like Pflugerville and Round Rock.
Chris Tatham, with the ETC Institute, confirmed what many senior advocates are saying: that the overall perception of Austin as a good place to retire ”has now dropped from 66 percent to 60 percent over the last 3 year period. Could be a concern abut pricing and how expensive it is – I know Austin is one of the few areas where housing prices haven’t plummeted like they have around the rest of the country.”
Besides affordable housing, the biggest problem for Austin seniors is transportation. These are massive problems that need to be solved if Austin wants to benefit from the co-existence of different age groups.
The Mayor’s Task Force on Aging will continue looking for solutions through next spring and will present its ideas to the city council some time next summer.