Since wrapping up its Go Centennial pilot program in February, which explored first- and last-mile challenges to public transportation, Centennial’s Innovation Team is opening the door to finding solutions to a different challenge: senior housing.
“Centennial’s population is pretty rapidly aging,” said Melanie Morgan, the Innovation Team’s data analysist. “The majority want to stay in Centennial. Many moved to the area before it was a city because they like the neighborhood and they are really tied to the area and to their social ties.
In Centennial’s 2015 Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults, 77 percent of Centennial seniors say they are likely to stay in the 16-year-old city throughout retirement.
In 2015, Centennial had 17,776 residents older than 65 — just over 16 percent of the city’s population. And that number is going to triple by 2040, according to an estimate from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The senior population is growing twice as fast as the city’s general population.
The Innovation Team is seeking ways the city, which is home to more than 109,000 people, can prepare for the increasing number of senior citizens.
“There has not been a lot of development in terms of senior-friendly communities,” said Chris O’Mara, chair of Centennial’s Senior Commission. “What we see is a demographic that is continuing to grow older, but the housing may not be suitable in that situation.”
The i-team, as Centennial refers to the Innovation Team, is an expansion of Bloomberg’s Expansion Innovation Team planted in 12 cities across the United States. The three members of the team specialize in user interface, data analization and project coordination. According to the city’s website, the program aims to improve the capacity of cities to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives.
Since January, the team has been meeting with senior residents, lawyers, real estate agents, police officers, firefighters, assisted living providers and health care service providers to find opportunities and challenges facing an aging population.
Right now, the team is analyzing information from three senior-housing focus groups that met in May.
“We want to get a wide-ranging voice from the community,” Morgan said. “We want residents to give us a really broad set of potential ideas.”
Morgan said the i-team has found that many seniors are interested in staying in their own homes, but recognize challenges of exterior home maintenance, cleaning and transportation.
One of the options is to find housing that is easier to maintain and navigate. Morgan said that getting rid of items or moving away from a longtime home is difficult for many people and that moving into a smaller space can be stressful.
Ranch-style homes, with the master bedroom on the main floor, are what many aging residents are looking for. But, Morgan said, those homes are sparse in the city and often outside the price range of many potential buyers.
The i-team recognized a need for friendships and community service and wants to ensure senior-living situations are closely tied with community.
“It is important to be involved with other people and to do meaningful activities that give back to the community,” Morgan said. “Having a community is something we heard over and over from interviews.”
The i-team is still deciding which direction the initiative will take, but want to focus it on what the residents need.
“We are doing this because we think it will be the right benefit for our residents," Morgan said. "We are not sure exactly what the initiatives will be at the end of the day. We are hoping input from the residents will give us a good head start.”
O’Mara is hopeful the i-team will find solutions to issues seniors face while aging in place.
“Personally, I think that we can develop a menu of different ideas, concepts and programs that can assist seniors in aging in place,” O’Mara said. “There is a whole host of different concepts we can use to ultimately keep seniors in their homes.”
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