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Austin Prepares For Rapidly Growing Senior Population
Austin has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the United States. City leaders have said the city is more known for its young, hip vibe and is ill-prepared for the rapid increase in the senior population.
Austin Mayor Lee leffingwell, who is 72-years-old, recently started a task force on aging. In the last ten years, the city said the elderly rate has grown by nearly 30 percent, twice the national rate.
Magdalena Meneses, who is 70-years-old, goes to WellMed, a senior community center, at least twice a week. She chats with her daughter over the internet, takes exercise classes and socializes with people her age.
Meneses told us the conversations among her friends aren't always positive. She said many seniors are scared or depressed about aging in Austin.
“We're by ourselves,” she explained. “My friend has all kinds of ailments, they call me and they feel lonely and sometimes they cry. I feel like, oh God, if these people feel like that, what am I going to do?”
To help ease that uncertainty, Mayor Leffingwell appointed 20 local leaders to start a task force on aging.
“Austin is poorly prepared,” said Amy Temperley, the Executive Director of Helping the Aging, Needy and Disabled, Inc. “We're missing this entire population of people.”
Temperley's non-profit has provided in-home service to the elderly for the last 40 years. She said the biggest challenges in Austin include a major disparity between services for seniors with money and those without, and transportation.
“There's not enough to get around,” she said about transportation for seniors. “Not only medical transportation but just the basics like getting to the grocery store and to church, so people can have regular lives.”
Temperley is also concerned about assisted living.
“Once you've got all the hours you get from the state and you still need assistance, you have to go straight to the nursing home,” Temperley explained. “There's not really anything in the middle.”
“I do think about those things often,” Meneses added. “It scares me.”
The task force says it’s now gathering information on services already offered in the city. Its next meeting is set for December and they hope to present a list of possible changes or improvements early next year.
Austin is behind Dallas, San Antonio and Houston’s city governments. They've already activated task forces to study the effects of an aging population.
By Katherine Stolp