As baby boomers enter their senior years, Nashville is bracing for the impact the change will have on city services.
A task force on the subject presented its research and recommendations Wednesday. It found that the areas of the city with the highest concentrations of senior citizens tend to also have a higher need for services from the police and fire departments. As the number of seniors grows, so will the draw on those services.
The task force set a long-term goal of establishing a registry of seniors. Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors says it would allow the city to send vital messages directly to them.
“They get automatic telephone alerts about different topics including emergency situations or weather situations so they’re not so isolated and they do know what’s going on.”
Going forward, Vice Mayor Neighbors will head an effort being called the Livability Project. The goal is to find ways of implementing the task force’s recommendations. It’s first job will be to promote wellness among aging Nashvillians by piggybacking on existing health and fitness efforts like Walk Nashville Week. Mayor Karl Dean is also asking the project to organize conferences on topics such as how to prepare the business community for a shrinking workforce.
The wellness recommendations include a city-run educational website, including a self-assessment tool and listings of health-related events. They also call for establishing an annual, city-wide “Get Fit Day.”
The task force is recommending measures to make it easier for seniors to either remain in their homes or downsize without leaving their current communities. It set a goal of implementing zoning changes to allow a mixed-use developments and infill in a variety of housing sizes. Several parts of the city have a history of neighbors organizing to fight attempts to allow more dense housing developments of the sort proposed by the task force.
It also calls for “encouragement” of Universal Design Standards, which make homes more accessible to people with limited mobility. The recommendations do not go so far as to make Universal Design a part of the building code.
According to U.S. Census Figures cited by the task force, there are currently more than two baby boomers for every person who is already retired. That ratio is expected to shift in the next decade, with the number of people retiring outnumbering those entering the workforce. By 2018, projections show that for every retiree there will be just 1.8 people of working age and 1.1 people of school age.