Episcopal Retirement Services’ (ERS) CEO, Laura Lamb, aims to eradicate ageism, beginning here in Cincinnati. Making the Queen City age-inclusive isn’t necessarily an easy task, but we believe it can be attained. By championing this cause, Cincinnati and the Tri-State area can become an example of positive aging for communities worldwide.
The first step in promoting age-inclusivity is making the community accessible. Seniors need to feel safe and confident in their neighborhoods and know that they’re supported by the programs and people around them in their lives. Creating an environment like this is vital for fostering positive aging among the seniors in the community. When someone feels like they truly belong and are safe in an area, they tend to have longer, happier lives, and better overall wellness.
There are many ways we can work to make Cincinnati an age-inclusive city. Here are just a few thoughts.
5 Steps Needed to Make Cincinnati More Age-Inclusive
1. Increase the availability of affordable housing for seniors.
In the Greater Cincinnati area, as with many other places, rent prices have been steadily rising. This rise is useful for developers, landlords, and anyone working in the real estate or rental business. Unfortunately, it’s not so good for the renters on the other side — especially seniors. Many seniors rely on a fixed income of some sort, so rising rent prices can create unknown and anxious feelings.
While Social Security can be adjusted to account for the cost of living needs, these adjustments infrequently happen, which leaves many seniors vulnerable. At the very least, it can remove their sense of financial security. By increasing the number of senior-friendly, affordable apartments, we can ensure our senior neighbors can access quality housing.
Pictured: ERS team members and partners at the Manse groundbreaking ceremony in September 2019.
The Cincinnati area has a few of these affordable options established already, but we’re working on expanding that. Episcopal Retirement Services currently has six projects in the works (two are located in Kentucky), which will become hundreds of apartments. Once the projects are completed, this will bring the total number of ERS units to 1,800.
One of these exciting developments is renovating the old Manse Hotel and turning it into an apartment community that will offer 60 rooms to seniors in need of affordable housing.
2. Improve public transportation.
Sometimes as seniors age, it becomes unsafe for them to drive themselves. In that case, they either rely on someone to take them where they need to go or turn to public transportation. Currently, the public transportation offerings are slim: buses, which often require many route changes, and the Cincinnati Streetcar, which still runs on a limited route though it will be free to ride beginning November 1, 2020.
By strengthening public transportation offerings around our city, we can give the seniors a greater sense of independence in our community.
3. Ensure seniors feel valued.
While seniors may need a little more help getting from one place to another, that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty to offer our community! Instead, finding ways for seniors to get involved, from volunteerism to events that are not just seniors-only, but those that include seniors, we can help make Cincinnati more age-inclusive.
Very few people intentionally make the seniors in their life feel sidelined, but intentional or not, it happens often. When we as a community take the time to engage with the seniors in our lives, we can make our city more vibrant, valued, and wiser.
4. Work toward dementia inclusivity.
It’s a fact that many seniors experience some form of dementia. We also have a goal in partnership with the City of Cincinnati and the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati to make the Queen City the most Dementia-inclusive city in America by 2025. By working toward this goal, we can help those with dementia feel empowered, dream big dreams, and be confident in their ability to continue participating in their favorite activities.
ERS has also recently established the Center for Memory Support and Inclusion. This initiative combines the resources of ERS, UC Health, the medical community, the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati, and other aging service providers in the area to support seniors who are living with dementia. Click here to learn more.
5. Support intergenerational living.
Speaking of helping seniors feel valued, one of the best ways to do this is through having the younger generation connect with their elders. Intergenerational living is an excellent way to do this, and it doesn’t just mean having Grandma and Grandpa live with you. Instead, making intergenerational activities a priority works just as well. At an ERS community in Louisville, seniors and young people often get together for events. One of the most popular is their Girl Scout tea party. Planning for these types of interactions provides benefits to members of each generation.
To make Cincinnati an age-inclusive city, we’ll need help from everyone. Spread the word, find ways to have intergenerational interactions, and ensure the seniors in your life feel valued. No matter what steps you take, you can help us move forward.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog was originally published on August 18, 2017, but was updated and republished with new information.