Promoting an Age-Friendly Berkeley
Our City’s demographics are constantly evolving, but one statistic that stands out is the ever increasing older adult population. As of 2017, Berkeley residents 65 years and older account for 13.5% of our population, an increase from 11.7% recorded during the 2010 Census. What is more striking is that by 2030, an estimated one in five residents will be 65 or over, nearly doubling the current population. Advances in medicine and the spike of ‘baby boomers’ born after World War II have resulted in a late-twentieth century demographic phenomenon, popularly referred to as the ‘silver tsunami’, that cities across the country are similarly anticipating.
To take on the expected demographic changes and ensure that we have a community in which seniors can thrive in, the City embarked on a several year process to develop an Age-Friendly Action Plan. In 2016, Berkeley was designated as an Age-Friendly Community, one of approximately 300 cities across the country with this designation that is recognized by the World Health Organization and AARP. As part of the community driven process to develop the Action Plan, a citywide survey of over 1,400 older adults took place in 2018 to understand the needs of our rapidly aging population. With the vast majority of respondents stating they prefer to age in their homes and communities, the Action Plan was designed to create the framework for ensuring that the City not only meets the needs of seniors, but developing an inclusive and welcoming environment.
Based on feedback from community surveys and data from the World Health Organization, the Age-Friendly Action Plan focuses on eight domains. These are (1) housing, (2) health and community services, (3) transportation, (4) outdoor spaces and buildings, (5) social and civic participation, (6) employment and economic security, (7) respect and social inclusion, and (8) communication and information. Theses domains act as the building blocks for identifying the needs of our senior community by identifying social and environmental factors that influence how well we age and how long we live. Essentially, these are the categories that must be addressed to achieve the goals of the Action Plan.
Through using the lens of the eight domains, four priority areas were identified in the Action Plan. They are (1) housing and economic security, (2) transportation and mobility, (3) health and wellness, and (4) social participation and civic engagement. These priority areas have been identified as fundamental aspects that build upon the work that is already occurring in the community and to address current gaps. Each of the domains and priority areas have an expansive list of recommendations, which can be viewed in the Action Plan.
The Action Plan lays out a three-year implementation process. Year one will see the City’s Aging Services Division reaching out to various stakeholders in creating an action team to move forward on the goals outlined in the plan. The Age Friendly website will be updated regularly to track progress. The following two years will focus on implementation of the various initiatives.
I look forward to working with our senior community is the implementation of the plan. We know that demand for aging services will increase dramatically over the next decade, so by planning today we will be ready to meet that demand tomorrow. Berkeley prides itself as a city of diversity and inclusion, and we have an obligation to live up to that reputation. The Age-Friendly Action Plan is essential in paving the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and accessible city.