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Aging Together: A New Project Covering Older Adults in Detroit, Metro Detroit And The State

by: Craig Fahle

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Photo: Katie Bailey, MLive Detroit

“The Golden Years” -- The image created by this phrase is one of an older couple living a relaxed life after the working years are over. Countless advertisements for retirement planning services show carefree seniors smiling, living their dreams in exotic locales surrounded by beautiful grandchildren, financial concerns in the rearview window.

As we all know the reality can be quite different. The great recession hit many people’s retirement savings hard, with little time to recoup the losses before retirement age. Social Security, meant to be a safety net that supplements other savings, is all too often the only monthly income many receive. Medical costs continue to rise, and some will find themselves in need of regular care, which can be prohibitively expensive for many families. This is a situation that more of us will be dealing with soon.

Michigan’s population is aging. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 24 percent of Michigan’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030, an increase of 32 percent from 2012, and the state's fastest growing age group is people between 85 and 95 years old. Nationally, Census officials predict the U.S. citizens aged 65 and older will nearly double to 83.1 million people by 2050.

This is already placing a significant burden on the health care system and the assisted living community. It also suggests that major investments in things like public transit will be needed to meet the growing demands of an aging population.

Just last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder brought the issue to light with a speech laying out plans to make Michigan an aging friendly state. He emphasized the need to support seniors in living healthy lifestyles, staying active and engaged, achieving financial security during retirement and retaining independence. The governor also noted Michiganders over 65 are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the state. It echoes a common theme among experts: Seniors give back to community, but they're not always recognized for it.

What other services will be needed to meet the challenge? Also, why are their different quality of life and health outcomes for different zip codes in our area? These are just a few of the questions that we plan to try and find answers to when we take a deeper look at aging in Metro Detroit, and we’re calling the project “Aging Together”. WDET, along with our project partners MLive and Model D Media, will spend several months examining the challenges we face as a region in providing more security, better health outcomes and a better quality of life of our senior population. Look for news features and discussions on 101.9 WDET, at WDET.org, MLive.com and ModelDMedia.com. You can also find the collective coverage, as it comes out, on the Aging Together tumblr.

Together, we hope to come up with some ideas and possible solutions to this critical issue.

Aging Together is a summer-long project between MLive Detroit, WDET 101.9FM Detroit and Model D Media that explores the issues of older adults in Detroit, Southeast Michigan and the state.

What aging issues are you or loved ones dealing with? Share your input and experiences with the "Aging Together" team and help bring attention to aging-related issues in Detroit, Metro Detroit, and across Michigan.