How will Metro Nashville’s next mayor manage age-related issues?
On Thursday, Sept. 10 Nashville voters went to the polls to elect a new mayor to lead the city. As Nashville continues to grow, the mayor's influence over the entire region grows as well – the decisions made for Music City’s future will also have a profound impact on all of Middle Tennessee.
We recently asked Nashville's new mayor, Megan Barry to help shed some light on how she views age-related issues.
AARP Tennessee: What role will Metro government take to build partnerships with senior centers and private elder service providers to promote active lifestyles and independent living?
Megan Barry: The Mayor’s primary job is to lead. During my eight-years on Metro Council, I have worked with Mayor Dean on initiatives to improve our quality of life. From arts programs to his get active campaign, Mayor Dean helped improve public awareness on important issues, which is what I will do as Mayor. Additionally, I will work with the Department of Parks & Recreations to create more and better-accessible senior programming in our community centers and expand access to our greenways and parks.
AARP Tennessee: How will you address the growing number of frauds and scams that target older adults?
Megan Barry: In my professional career, I served as an ethics and compliance officer making sure companies were open and honest about their business practices. As Mayor, I draw on that experience to work Fifty Forward and the Tennessee Commission on Aging to address this issue. We can use the model used by Mayor Dean and his focus on curbing domestic violence to also address this issue – bringing together the Chief Anderson, the District Attorney, legal aid, non-profit organizations like AARP, and the state to fully investigate and prosecute these scams that occur locally.
AARP Tennessee: What is your plan to create new or improve existing transportation options for older individuals, including those who have disabilities and cannot drive?
Megan Barry: As Mayor, I will create an Office of Transportation responsible for coordinating the Metro departments that deal with transit. The office will work with local, regional, state and federal agencies to streamline the process for investing in all modes of traffic—including our valuable MTA Access rides. We must also make sure that we have a bus system, connected by sidewalks, that is efficient and gets people where they need to go.
AARP Tennessee: As our city continues to grow, affordable housing is far less available for older adults. How do we solve this problem?
Megan Barry: Poverty for senior citizens in Nashville is above eight percent and a large contributing factor is the rising cost of housing. We want to make sure that our seniors can age in place, we must take a multifaceted approach. First, we must look at expanding our property tax freeze program. We also must use inclusionary zoning and other tools at our disposal to protect not just the integrity, but the affordability of our neighborhoods. Additional tools like tax deferral and home repair assistance are also key to keeping our seniors independent in terms of living and their finances.
AARP Tennessee: What do you believe is the biggest issue facing our older population, and as mayor, what will you do to help fix it?
Megan Barry: Many of the issues discussed so far all come down to the ability of our older population to age in place. For some, that means staying in the home they’ve lived in all their life, working with non-profits to help maintain upkeep of older homes and use both property tax freezes and property tax rebates to help lower-income seniors afford to stay in their neighborhoods. For others, that means downsizing to smaller homes or condos that fit their needs. That means working with developers to implement universal design standards to promote accessibility, and create more walkable neighborhoods along transit lines within the communities they love.