Move over, Florida, Iowa's quality of life is gaining national recognition for successful aging.
“This is the year the stars seem to be aligning for successful aging and age-friendly communities in Iowa,” said AARP Iowa State Director Kent Sovern. The year’s good news includes these three recent developments:
- GOVERNING magazine selects Iowa as one of four states for a statewide conference on designing communities for all ages;
- Iowa scores the most high-ranking metro areas in the national "Best Cities for Successful Aging" ranking by the Milikin Institute;
- Greater Des Moines is named third city in the country to join the World Health Organization (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities project.
“With more than 20 percent of Iowa’s expected to be age 60 or older within 20 years, these recognitions are helping fuel awareness of Iowa’s strengths and natural attractions for residents age 60 and over, as well as drive state leaders to develop new strategies to foster greater engagement and capacity to meet the needs of older Iowans, as well as all generations,” said Sovern.
“It is a natural fit for AARP to play a leadership role in working with local and state public and private leaders to engage Iowa AARP volunteers and members in the process to advance the state’s livability for all,” Sovern added.
Creating Communities for All Ages Forum
In June, GOVERNING magazine and AARP brought together more than 100 community, business, and government leaders, including Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad (R) and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, in a statewide discussion of the kinds of policies and programs Iowa needs to foster to create innovation and communities for all.
The program was led by GOVERNING editor-in-chief, Paul Taylor, Ph.D., and also featured speakers AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, who shared new tools for developing communities for all ages, and Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, President of Lehrer Architects of Los Angeles, who discussed social capital and planning for Iowa communities.
Gov. Branstad challenged attendees to think creatively to bring vision, partnerships, and resources together to improve the quality of life for Iowa's residents. He also issued a resolution proclaiming “Iowa as a state committed to promoting, creating and sustaining communities for all ages.
Five Iowa Cities Get High Marks for Successful Aging
With 80 million boomers on their way to senior status, the non-profit think tank Milken Institute released a new index in July 2012 that measures, compares and ranks the performance of 359 U.S. metropolitan areas in promoting and enabling successful aging.
The data-driven analysis of the 78 factors that most affect seniors’ quality of life gave Iowa the most high-ranking metro areas of any state in the country. Among the top 20 metropolitan areas in the 150 highest-populated areas of the country, the Omaha-Council Bluffs area ranked #3 and Des Moines #6 ; in the next population tier of 209 metro areas, Iowa City ranked #2, Ames ranked #11 and Dubuque ranked #14 .
Greater Des Moines Age-Friendly City Project Under Way
After receiving the World Health Organization’s invitation last year to be the third city in the country and the first in the Midwest to embark on an Age-Friendly City project, Greater Des Moines is well on its way toward accomplishing the five-year process to achieving full acceptance in the WHO global network of outstanding communities for older residents.
AARP Iowa State Director Kent Sovern is serving in a co-project chair capacity with Dr. Yogesh Shah, associate dean of global health at Des Moines University and Joel Olah, Ph.D., executive director of Aging Resources of Central Iowa on the 19-member advisory committee responsible for leading the project.
Thus far, AARP has helped outreach to members and community leaders in the 58 neighborhoods in the Greater Des Moines area, and created a household survey to assess community opinions on needs an priorities to be addressed in a long-range Age Friendly Communities action plan.
“We’re looking forward to sharing the research, recommendations and insights we learn from our efforts in the Greater Des Moines community with city and regional planning organizations across the state to help them adapt to the needs of changing demographics, serve the interest of residents and sustain economic and social vitality,” said Sovern.
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