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City faces aging population

BY DANIEL SEIDL | FEBRUARY 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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The rapidly increasing senior population in Iowa City can’t be ignored, according to University of Iowa and Iowa City officials.

“We have a lot of people who are living longer, but we also have a lot of people who are moving here to Iowa City because it’s a really attractive place for retirement,” said Brian Kaskie, an associate director for public policy at the UI Center on Aging. “Relative to the growth that we’ve experienced … I really don’t think we’ve kept up with the type of programs and services that seniors [need].”

The Iowa City City Council will consider one step in addressing the need for increased senior services on Tuesday. The council will vote on a proposal that would create an ad-hoc Senior Services Committee, which would be charged with examining the current services provided by the city and determining any action to take.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 8.2 percent of the Iowa City population is above 65 years old. Fifteen percent of Iowa’s population fits into this age group, By 2025, state officials expect this to jump to nearly 20 percent.

“I think it’s important for us to look at the whole range of services the aging population needs,” said Councilor Jim Throgmorton. “We need to take a look at that, and one good way to do that is to have a temporary committee.”

John Wadsworth, a UI associate professor who studies the aging population, agreed the city needs increased support for senior services because of a rapidly increasing senior population.

“Our society as a whole is growing older,” he said. “Iowa City … needs more support because it’s known as a good place to grow older.”

Most of the city-sponsored senior services are currently provided by the Senior Center. These services include classes, legal and health-insurance counseling, and other amenities. But it doesn’t cover everything, Kaskie said.

“We don’t have a senior daycare center in all of Johnson County,” he said. “I don’t want to move my mom into a nursing facility, but I can’t leave her at home, either.”

In addition to the lack of a daycare center, housing and transportation need to be improved by the city as well. Transportation increases for the aging population are already in the works for Iowa City, according to a report by Johnson County SEATs last week. SEATs is the primary bus service provided for elderly and disabled people in Johnson County.

One issue in increasing senior services in Iowa City is the diverse needs of the aging population, Throgmorton said.

“The composition of seniors has been changing in the city over the past years,” he said. “The needs of senior citizens in Iowa City are quite diverse.”

The city, as well as businesses in the city, should be looking at the aging population as an untapped market, Kaskie said.

“The city, and the businesses in the city, really aren’t taking advantage of the senior market,” he said. “[They] should be thinking of these folks as an emerging market.”


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