Report highlights challenges for Boston’s elders

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BOSTON – A divide separates older Bostonians from younger city residents in terms of access, while there are also distinct differences in needs between those in late middle age and those past 70, according to a report released Thursday by the Commission on the Affairs of the Elderly.

Other major concerns outlined in the report by older residents include insufficient availability of affordable housing and unsatisfactory access to quality health care and social services. The report described access as a critical issue, because it can limit the ability of elders to take advantage of programs and other offerings.

Access issues extend to sidewalks, benches and public restrooms for those who prefer to walk, which is an important form of physical activity for many older people. The report also cited a lack of job opportunities for older residents, particularly those past 50 but younger than 70, language barriers and feelings that elders have of being disrespected by their younger neighbors and city government.

The data collected in the report will help form the basis for drafting an action plan, with city officials working an advisory council, according to a statement on the report from Mayor Marty Walsh’s office. Some projects that aim to address unmet needs that are already planned or under way include one focused on age-friendly walking with Walk Boston. Meeting demand for low-income senior residences is one aspect of the Boston 2030 Housing Plan. Seniors Save is a proactive heating system replacement program for the city’s older homeowners.

“This data is another step forward in our goal to make Boston a welcoming city for all, including our older residents,” Walsh said in the statement. “I look forward towards achieving our goal to make Boston the most age-friendly city in America.”

Spurred by a projection that the city’s older population would surge by 52 percent by 2030, Walsh became the first Massachusetts mayor to add his city to a network of age-friendly communities set up by the World Health Organization and AARP, the former American Association of Retired Persons, in 2014. He subsequently launched the Age-Friendly Boston Initiative, which spent the past year gathering input from the community.

Researchers for the initiative engaged with over 800 older Bostonians in 25 listening sessions. Questionnaires were completed by 3,629 residents age 50 or older and dozens of provider and advocacy groups citywide provided input.

The Age-Friendly Boston Initiative aims to challenge the city’s public agencies, community groups, businesses, cultural, educational and religious institutions to consider how changes in policies and practices can enhance the quality of life of the city’s older residents.

To read the full report, click here.