JVA Consulting President Janine Vanderburg and Senior Associate Margaret Roberts presented at this week’s National Association of Regional Councils’ Regional Innovation conference in Denver. Vanderburg, Roberts and Sandy Markwood from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging spoke on the topic, Preparing for the Boomers: Is Your Area Agency On Aging Ready?
Vanderburg’s and Robert’s presentation focused on the work that JVA has done with the Rose Community Foundation’s Boomers Leading Change (BLC) initiative. For this initiative, JVA conducted a community needs assessment by administering a series of Web-based surveys plus numerous focus groups and in-person interviews with a group of older adults ages 55–65 across the Denver metro area.
The needs assessment revealed several things about Denver’s boomer population. For one, they have a strong sense of civic engagement: three in four would like to volunteer; one in three would like to teach, engage in advocacy or work for a nonprofit; and only six percent of those surveyed wanted no civic engagement at all. In addition, those who already donate to a nonprofit cause specified that they would like to be really involved in the cause they are donating to and do not just want to write a check. The surveys that JVA conducted also showed that most boomers do not expect to retire, at least not in the traditional sense.Vanderburg also spoke to the common “silver tsunami” idea that boomers will be a drain on social services and programs as they age. While some feel that boomers will be a drain on health care, social security and other systems because of their sheer numbers, Vanderburg said organizations need to change to include boomers and engage them to be part of the solution.
“Boomers are a resource, not a road to bankruptcy,” Vanderburg said. Engaging boomers on a meaningful level, she said, is particularly important considering their generation’s long history of advocacy.
Markwood then talked more specifically about what Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) need to do to prepare themselves for the increased demand for services that aging boomers will create. She also said boomers have changed the definition of what it means to age, that they are a civically engaged generation and that they should be “celebrated.” At the same time, Markwood stressed the need for everyone to prepare for boomers’ aging, saying that individuals need to plan, families need to plan, communities need to plan and AAAs need to plan. Despite the strong need for boomers to plan, few have.
Markwood cited a host of things AAAs need to do to begin to plan for boomers, including implementing more consumer-driven options, involving boomers in determining the best way to serve their generation, creating livable communities to allow boomers to remain in their homes longer and incorporating private pay options into the system. Markwood also stressed that all sectors will be affected by the aging boomer population, and that no one sector will be able to handle this on its own, saying it is particularly important that for-profit companies are not left out of the solution.