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Aging In Place in North Iowa – A Challenge And A Blessing

This news story was published on January 30, 2020.
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According to a study undertaken in 2018, by the AARP, it was estimated that just under eighty percent of US citizens over the age of fifty would prefer to remain in their current home as they age. 

However, many of these same surveyed people didn’t believe that it was a realistic possibility in the long term. Just under fifty percent of those people thought they would be able to so so, while the rest felt that they may be better served by a care home or nursing facility. 

North Iowa’s senior options

In the North East Iowan town of West Union, which has a population of just over two thousand people, there are options for seniors who want to age in their community with services such as the Gundersen Palmer Hospital. This is a thriving community of a decent size with a transit service, senior center, and a well maintained public infrastructure too. 

Many smaller communities within Iowa simply can’t say the same, though. Older people say they would like to stay near to their home as they age but it isn’t as simple as that. There is often a lack of affordable and suitable housing, little in the way of transportation or home care services. Overall, the infrastructure isn’t necessarily designed to support elderly people, or those with disabilities. 

Iowa as a whole, amongst the population of the United States, comes close to the middle of the pack when thinking about the number of citizens it has who are 65 or older, so more needs to be done to support them. 

By the year 2050, in the 99 counties that make up Iowa, one in five people will be 65 or older in 74 of them. This means that seniors and their families are faced with some difficult choices about life care. 

Firstly, do they stay in their own homes (which many prefer to do)? Secondly, if they can’t – can they find locally available care homes that meet their needs and are affordable? There are care homes that can make the transition a lot easier, but these are often found in an urban center rather than small counties. However, one guarantee is that they specialize in the types of care and medicine they can offer. 

Can better housing solutions offer North Iowans more help? 

The AARP are hoping that they can help to work with local communities within all counties in Iowa, particularly on the issue of housing, so that more people can age at home. 

In fact, many now see hope in the senior population as a way to make communities more vibrant and viable. For instance, seniors may need accommodation that is within easy walking distance of local amenities and facilities, but this is something that’s not just desirable for them, but for a whole range of other people too – young mothers, families, and people who cannot afford to run cars. 

Seniors can also help to strengthen communities financially by being more involved socially, regardless of their income. There have been examples in which efforts to embrace senior living, and lifestyles have paid dividends.

One of these is Charles City, which has been highly rated as a liveable community by the AARP in 2019. Here, they undertook a major infrastructure project to make it fully accessible to seniors. Officials here are said to really go the extra mile to accommodate and support their aging population and be welcoming to seniors. It was announced at the end of 2019 that a $13 million assisted living community would be built here, adjacent to the Floyd County Medical Center and if this is a success, other towns and cities in Iowa could well take note of their lead and follow suit to better support their elderly citizens. 


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