Medford, OR — What makes a community livable? AARP Oregon conducted a survey to understand better the people 50+ living in Jackson and Josephine counties and to gauge their opinions on aspects of their community’s age friendliness, livability and capacity to help Southern Oregonians live independently as they age.
With the aging population growing rapidly nationwide, being prepared and equipped to support the needs and also leverage the strengths of all ages is increasingly important for communities. Oregon is no exception. By 2050, Oregon’s 65+ population is expected to grow by 105% overall and by 68%, 119% and an astounding 214% respectively for within ages 65-74, 75-84 and 85+.
According to the Census, Jackson and Josephine counties already have a large 50+ population with 40% and 46% of 50+ residents respectively. These counties also have higher percentages of persons below poverty. Based on this information and findings from this survey, it is clear that taking steps towards increasing the “livability” of Southern Oregon is a necessity.
“This survey provides policy makers, government officials, advocates, and the nonprofit and business communities’ information about the livability issues of interest to our aging population, and ideas to consider for successful future planning,” said Dave Toeler, Director of Senior and Disability Services for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments. “Additionally, this survey provides a great resource and case study for other communities looking to determine the livability needs of an aging population.”
More than 1,500 residents of Jackson and Josephine Counties completed the mail survey that strove to identify community satisfaction, top community livability and age friendliness in eight key areas which including 1) outdoor spaces and buildings 2) transportation 3) housing 4) social participation 5) respect and social inclusion 6) civic participation and employment 7) communications and information and 8) community and health services.
Overall, Jackson and Josephine county residents regard their community as a great place to live as they age,” said Bandana Shrestha, AARP Oregon director of community engagement. “But there are some key features and services residents believe are important but are lacking in their community.”
“What we have learned about 50+ voters in Southern Oregon is that they are rooted in their community, they vote, are engaged, they think their community is livable, they want to age in place and have no plans to move,” said Don Bruland, AARP Oregon executive council volunteer and Medford resident.
- 93% and 94% say affordable and accessible housing are important or very important, but only 26% and 27% said they are available in their community.
- 43% of Southern Oregon 50+ registered voters have lived in their community for 21 years or more.
- 68% say it is extremely or very important to remain in their homes as they age
- 60% support policies that ensure that roads are designed for all users (drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation.
- Other identified gaps in services such as outdoor maintenance, good jobs, and public transportation.
- Based on the survey findings, the report makes recommendations to improve the livability for each key area the survey explored, including:
- Improve pedestrian safety in southern Oregon streets.
- Develop new opportunities for intergenerational connections, mentorship and volunteering.
- Explore partnerships between senior centers and university/community centers to deliver low cost educational/enrichment programs.
- Enact and strengthen local policies to promote housing to support aging in place.
AARP Oregon has been working with community partners to increase the number of accessible homes in Southern Oregon. We are also convening a group of organizations and individuals interested in age-friendly initiatives and we plan to use the findings of this study to guide future work, and to identify opportunities for partnerships and collaborations that enhance livability and age-friendliness.