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Is Columbus an Age-Friendly City?

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Columbus is welcoming, progressive, and growing. But is it age-friendly? And by that, we mean, is it the kind of city that will take care of its older residents, and be attractive to new ones?

Retirees and empty-nesters moving to warmer climates is a familiar story. But with a burgeoning cultural scene, world-class museums, a year-round sports scene, and a very affordable cost of living, Columbus holds a deep appeal to older residents, whose numbers are growing rapidly. Will current seniors stay? Will new ones move here?

According to the Age-Friendly Innovation Center at The Ohio State University’s College of Social Work, Franklin County’s population of adults aged 60 and over is expected to double between 2010 and 2050. In the United States, the number of adults aged 65 and over is projected to be greater than the number of children under 18.

What is an age-friendly community? An age-friendly community recognizes the great diversity among older persons, promotes their inclusion and contributions in all areas of community life, respects their decisions and lifestyle choices, and anticipates and responds flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences.

Age-friendly communities provide safe and accessible indoor and outdoor spaces, ensure older adults can get where they need to go, have access to housing, and ensure the safety of older adults in the event of emergencies.

Communities attuned to needs of older residents also commit to honor respect, inclusion, and social participation, provide opportunities to work, volunteer, and engage, recognize the unique communication needs of older adults, and work to ensure access for seniors to community and health services.

Does Columbus meet the criteria needed to truly call itself an age-friendly community? What are other cities doing right, or getting wrong, about being age-friendly? What track is Columbus on, and what changes need to be considered in infrastructure, tax policies, and social services to ensure Columbus builds a reputation as an age-friendly city?

Featuring Holly Holtzen, State Director, AARP Ohio, and Katie White, Director, Age-Friendly Innovation Center, The Ohio State University College of Social Work, with moderator Ursel McElroy, Director, Ohio Department of Aging.