‘Aging in Boston’ Report Released by the Elderly Commission

The report includes a demographic profile of Boston’s fastest growing population and what the next steps will be.

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View from East Boston photo by Lisa DeCotis

When you think of retiring, visions of a sunwashed Arizona or the beaches of Florida may come to mind. But Boston? With our weather? With our traffic? Yeah, right. So we were surprised to find out that the city of Boston was ranked number two on the “Best U.S Cities for Seniors” list, and fourth on the Milken Institute’s “Best Cities for Successful Aging.” Say what?

Our beloved city’s historic sites and plethora of colleges and universities earned Boston high scores for being a “senior special” city as well as giving seniors ample opportunities to continue learning and engage their brains.  And although we’ve all had our share of issues with the MBTA, our public transportation system ranked high in the studies as well. The T system, including the trains, trolleys, buses, and boat routes throughout the greater metropolitan area, was said to “help seniors get around with ease” and that translated into a high transportation score.

Mayor Marty Walsh has released the “Aging in Boston” report, produced by the Boston Commission on Affairs of the Elderly in collaboration with the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston. “The over 60 population is growing rapidly in Boston. In fact, by 2030 one out of every five residents of Boston will be over the age of 60,” Mayor Walsh said in a statement. “This population has a strong legacy in Boston and they continue to contribute in important ways to life in the city. Yet too many of our seniors still struggle day to day as they face difficulties in maintaining their ability to continue to live independently.”

Elderly Affairs Commissioner Emily Shea says that the goal of the commission is to make Boston a better place for people to grow old in. While many seniors have the resources they need as they age, 75 percent of Boston seniors living alone have incomes insufficient to meet their expenses, she says, adding that while there are many Boston residents who are still healthy and thriving, 50 percent of residents age 80 and over don’t have access to a vehicle, and one out of five seniors age 60 to 70 report ambulatory difficulties.

“We [studied] the 2010 census to look at the state of aging in Boston and saw that this really is a hugely growing demo,” Shea says. “In 2010, we had 88,000 seniors in Boston, and the projections say that by 2030 we’ll have close to 130,000 seniors. The population over 60 is growing faster than the total population. Between 2000 and 2010 it grew double the rate.”

As the population ages, diversity is also increasing in Boston, especially in the older population. “If you look at the years between 2000 and 2010 the African-American population over 60 increased by 37 percent; the Asian population increased by 52 percent; and Hispanic and Latino 85 percent.”

Mayor Walsh also announced that the City of Boston is joining the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities Network to better prepare Boston for the growth in the over 60 population. In order to join the network, Boston has to make a commitment to create environments that promote healthy and active aging and a good quality of life for older residents. Shea says that over the next five years, Boston will work with partners to assess its “age friendliness,” and then create and implement a three-year action plan.

“We are excited to finally have Boston specific data on this population. We look forward to working with our partner agencies to utilize this data to plan for Boston’s growing and diverse older adult population,” Shea says. “We are one of the first cities in Massachusetts to join the WHO Age Friendly Cities and we are eager to get started and make Boston an even better place to grow older.”

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