One of Episcopal Retirement Services's (ERS) most important long-term goals is to help Cincinnati and the surrounding Tri-State area become one of the most age-friendly regions in the nation. But that's not something we can do alone.
We need help from the business community. We need help from local governments. And we need help from people like you.
Today, let's talk about some of the strategies that we all can use to promote positive aging and help Greater Cincinnati lead the way in challenging elder stereotypes.
1. Provide more financial security for vulnerable seniors.
For seniors who worked in well-paying careers, received excellent benefits, and saved well, retirement income may not be a source of worry. For others — especially those seniors who were undereducated in their youth and worked in low-skill jobs — financial insecurity is a significant source of stress.
Positive aging depends not only on seniors’ physical health but also on their mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual health. And we know that, when financial health is poor, the other four areas suffer as a result.
How can businesses help? They can hire seniors.
Americans are working longer into their traditionally accepted "retirement years" than ever before. Some seniors want to work; some need to work to make ends meet.
And many of these older workers bring invaluable experience to the market — knowledge that could guide your business and help your younger employees develop faster, with fewer mistakes along the way. Don’t be nervous about bringing a senior onboard. They’re likely eager to share what they know with your other employees and your customers.
Businesses and community members alike can take a stand by fighting against age discrimination and advocate for seniors’ financial security across all aspects of life, including equal opportunities for transportation and safe and reliable housing. You could even volunteer some of your time to help or educate seniors about potential scams they may encounter so they can be better prepared to protect themselves.
2. Build a more robust safety net for our seniors.
At the same time, communities can work to put more programs in place to help those elders who are struggling.
Those resources could include Meals on Wheels programs, grocery delivery, door-to-door transportation services, subsidized bus, and rail passes, free or low-cost health clinics, medication co-pay subsidies, and more.
Remember, senior resources don't all need to be funded by the public, either; the private sector could also work to put more non-profit or low-cost resources in place for our most vulnerable elders.
Safety nets aren’t always financial, either. Many seniors will face a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s at some point in their lives. Episcopal Retirement Services is committed to providing quality, comprehensive care to seniors with cognitive loss. Our Center for Memory Support and Inclusion is designed to support these seniors with quality living environments, excellent care and programming, and top-tier community outreach.
The Dementia Inclusive Cincinnati program is another excellent program in our local area. Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program sponsors memory cafes at Cincinnati libraries, and they always encourage restaurants and other businesses to give employees dementia-friendly training. Together, we can make Cincinnati a more dementia-friendly city.
3. Improve seniors' access to healthcare.
The U.S. spends nearly twice as much as the average OECD nation on healthcare. Even so, it also has the lowest life expectancy among the 37 OECD countries. How is it that we're spending more without seeing good results?
Part of the problem is wasteful spending within the healthcare system itself. Another part is a lack of meaningful tort reform, which has passed the increasing costs of liability protection on American healthcare consumers.
Finally, there’s the widening gap in access to quality, affordable healthcare between the "haves" (relatively affluent suburbs, coastal communities, and redeveloped urban areas) and the "have-nots" (economically distressed rural counties and older, industrialized cities in the Midwest and South).
For seniors — especially those suffering from severe or chronic illnesses — that lack of access to quality healthcare is a significant barrier to positive aging. To make Cincinnati completely age-friendly, we must find ways to close the healthcare gap.
4. Build more affordable, quality senior housing.
ERS and its partners are already working on this strategy.
Since its inception, our Affordable Living by ERS initiative has brought 1,691 new and refurbished apartments onto the market for lower-income seniors in Cincinnati, Lexington, and numerous smaller communities in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
We currently own or manage 27 rent-subsidized, affordable living communities for seniors. These senior housing communities have options and services not typically associated with seniors in lower-income areas. We are committed to continuing to upgrade and enhance our affordable living communities, too.
We need help from other non-profit organizations, local and state governments, and private citizens if we're going to shrink the affordable senior housing gap significantly.
What Are You Doing to Promote Positive Aging?
We've taken a broader, community-based focus here. But positive aging starts at home. And there are plenty of things that seniors and their family caregivers can do to take a positive approach to aging.
Staying active, both physically and mentally, keeping connected with loved ones, and finding new passions and activities they love to do can help keep seniors involved and engaged. Anything you can do to promote positive aging in your own life and those of your loved ones is helpful for you, them, and our community as a whole.
Editor's Note: This blog was originally published on January 31, 2018, and has been updated and republished with relevant information.