Commentary: Adults will outnumber kids in 2035. Plan for aging, Texas

Every day, the population of the United States, including Texas, is getting older. This poses important challenges to Social Security, Medicare and a host of state and local programs. In fact, the Census Bureau recently announced that it projects there will be more older people than children in the United States by 2035. We can’t afford to wait 17 years to start thinking about changes that we need to make.

This new demographic and social reality gives us an opportunity to rethink how we adapt to an aging population in ways that benefit all age groups. Texans, as they have in the past, can set an example for others to follow.

Changes cannot depend on a few advocates. Everyone must become aware of the issues. It takes people from different fields, backgrounds and age groups to offer solutions that truly change the way society treats the aging process.

COMMENTARY: Refugees and immigrant help reverse declining populations.

Seniors aren’t the only ones who benefit from effective policies on aging. Younger generations will age and eventually benefit. But younger generations can also reap the benefits today.

In 2013, approximately 40 million family caregivers in our country provided uncompensated care that, according to the AARP, had an estimated worth of about $470 billion. Improvements in effective care for seniors clearly benefits family members who are at risk of caregiver burnout if they must provide care to an aging relative without outside help. By taking some of the burden of care off families, we can put much of this time back into the economy to help keep Texas thriving.

We also have a chance to create a more inclusive society by breaking down traditional divides between older and younger age groups. For example, certain parts of cities in Texas and across the nation are becoming more age-segregated partly as the result of gentrification and displacement.

In smart cities of the future, social resilience will be a key ingredient for building stronger communities and for addressing aging-in-place issues. In 2013, a research report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta concluded that cities with a high degree of social resilience tend to enjoy numerous health and economic benefits. Put simply, it is not only the right thing to do; it is also not feasible to continue isolating adults based on their age as seniors become a greater share of the populace.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: Viewpoints delivers the latest perspectives on current events.

Our cities in Texas can serve as incubators of innovation that make aging a healthier, less socially isolated experience.

In coming up with solutions, more city mayors are establishing task forces on aging, city councils are forming commissions to inform age-related policy, and civic leaders are working with community members from all segments of the population. Cities could also create short-term plans that contain concrete steps to foster social inclusion and improve the health and well-being of seniors. Dallas, for example, has a Senior Affairs Commission consisting of 15 people selected by City Council members and the mayor to guide city staffers. And vulnerable seniors in Dallas can get help from caseworkers in the city’s Office of Senior Affairs.

Dallas is part of AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities, a World Health Organization initiative that also includes Austin, Brownsville, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Leaders of communities in this network recognize they must consider all factors, such as skyrocketing property values that make it hard for the elderly to stay in their homes, to maximize civic engagement and be more age-inclusive.

This does not mean that cities should prioritize the needs of seniors over those of other groups, but rather that every effort will be made to ensure that they contribute and enjoy what has been labeled “active aging.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Viewpoints page brings the latest commentaries to your Facebook feed.

Leaders should particularly focus on expanding public transportation and affordable housing to help seniors remain in their communities and live independently. We need to do a better job incorporating older residents into all aspects of city life.

Inventiveness is part of the social fabric in Texas. We have an opportunity to make similar innovations for the aging process. The conversation must start now.

Angel is a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Scoggin is a Master of Public Affairs candidate at the school.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

TWO VIEWS: Austin policies are making affordability crisis worse

Paying more for housing? Blame City Hall. In spite of paying regular lip service to affordability, city officials continue to push big government policies that make it more expensive to live in Austin. In fact, officials are exploring a new one now. Earlier this month, Austin’s Code Department began seeking public input on a proposal requiring...
TWO VIEWS: “No more cane on the Brazos” or affordable housing in Austin
TWO VIEWS: “No more cane on the Brazos” or affordable housing in Austin

How hard is it to find affordable housing these days? Let’s start in Sugar Land, where the old bones of more than 30 newly disinterred, turn-of-the-20th-century prison inmates can no longer afford their final resting places. The bodies have to move to make way for the local school district’s “new career center.” Figures. The...
Letters to the editor: April 23, 2018
Letters to the editor: April 23, 2018

I know this is the wrong media to reach the audience that I want to hear this, but here it goes. Students, let me tell you that what you say does not matter! You are not putting your efforts to good use. Politicians do not care what you have to say. You do not contribute to their campaigns, you do not have any lobbyist in your back pocket, and most...
Opinion: Foes of renewable energy increase risk of climate catastrophe

Peter Thiel, Facebook investor and Donald Trump supporter, is by all accounts a terrible person. He did, however, come up with one classic line about the disappointments of modern technology: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” OK, now it’s 280, but who’s counting? The point of his quip was that while we&rsquo...
Facebook comments: April 22, 2018
Facebook comments: April 22, 2018

As reported by the American-Statesman’s Jonathan Tilove, Alex Jones and InfoWars have been sued by the parents of children killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. The lawsuit centers on Jones suggesting the death of their children was a “hoax.” Tilove wrote the case “could be a landmark Austin...
More Stories