The aging population in the Brainerd lakes area may face concerns regarding housing, health care, security and transportation in the near future.
But the Brainerd community is working to address potential issues.
The city created an initiative called Brainerd for a Lifetime that is part of a pilot project with the Central Minnesota Council on Aging. A grant was provided to the aging council from the Otto Bremer Foundation.
The Brainerd for a Lifetime committee has been meeting since January to make preparations for the aging population and the challenges that come with growing older. The group met Tuesday at First Lutheran Church in Brainerd to discuss housing, health care, security and safety and transportation for seniors. The Brainerd for a Lifetime formed four committees to address each issue.
Jon Knopik of the aging council said there are 78 million baby boomers in America and by 2020 there will be more senior citizens than children.
"We've been calling this initiative the coming age wave or the silver tsunami," said Knopik. "We need to prepare for the aging population. The aging population will affect the entire community."
Elissa Rogers, of the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp., addressed the housing issue. Rogers said the city could give people a break in permit fees for using a universal design that makes a home accessible to people of all ages. She said the city also could prepare a senior friendly book with contact information for contractors and develop stronger neighborhood groups.
Rogers said downtown Brainerd could be redeveloped to be more senior friendly and to give seniors more convenient access to shopping.
Mark Ostgarden, Brainerd city planner, said rehabilitating homes to be senior-friendly will be a challenge. He said government agencies cannot lead this effort, it'll have to be a community effort.
Deb Cranny of Home Instead Senior Care in Brainerd said seniors need to be more informed of health-care issues.
"It's hard for folks to try to find out about things," said Cranny. "People don't ask questions until there is a crisis."
DeAnn Barry, Lakes Area Senior Activity Center director, said education is key and informing people about issues before they become senior citizens may be a better way to communicate. Barry and Cranny said other things that can be done to improve health care are the creation of a Kinship-type partnership for adults and encouraging youths to go into the medical/health-care field to care for the aging population.
Bonnie Cumberland, a Brainerd for a Lifetime member who spoke on safety and security, said lighting on the streets, sidewalks and alleys needs to be improved. She also said neighborhood watch signage could be incorporated. Cumberland said seniors also need to know they can call the police anytime and be comfortable with it. Cumberland suggested that a directory of contact information be available to seniors so they know who to call when in need.
Bob Sherman, a Brainerd for a Lifetime member, said the transportation committee toured Brainerd to consider the transportation needs. He said sidewalks and curbs need to be improved and there are no bike lanes available. He said the city could look at using electric or motorized bikes on the trails or streets.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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