The Valley’s 65 and over population is expected to double in size by the end of this decade. Find out what “MAG”, the Maricopa Association of Governments, is doing to help local governments determine how to best serve this growing population. Guests include MAG Human Services and Special Projects Manager Amy St. Peter, Carol Kratz of Piper Trust, and Michelle Dinisio, the President and CEO of Benevilla, a nonprofit that provides services to seniors.
Ted Simons: The valley's 65 and older population is expected to nearly double in size by the end of this decade. How local governments can best serve that growing population is the focus of the municipal aging services project, conduct the by mag, the Maricopa County association of governments. Here with more about the project is Amy St. Peter, mag's human services manager. Carol Kratz of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and -- by the way, they're supporting the project, and Michelle Dionisio, president and CEO of Benevilla, an organization that provides services to Arizona's senior population. It is good to have you all here. Thank you so much for joining us. Amy, let's start with you. The municipal aging services project. What exactly are we talking about here?
Amy St. Peter: We're talking about trying to determine the best and most effective role for local government and meeting the needs of their residents, age 65 and plus. Really in collaboration with a number of different stakeholders. There are a lot of really good people doing really good work, but given the increases in the population, the impact on the funding reductions and the recession, we need to do more with less and we need to figure out the best way to make that happen.
Ted Simons: Surveys, focus groups, these kind of things involved here?
Carol Kratz: Absolutely. The project was very well done in terms of individual interviews, in terms of focus groups, a lot of demographic analysis, so it really provides a wonderful foundation for what do we need to think about for this doubling of the population by 2020. It's not the same population as grandma and her retirement, and so I think this really provides a very good framework for local governments and the rest of the community to think about how we need to change what we're doing.
Ted Simons: With what you're doing, this kind of information, this kind of framework, how does it help?
Michelle Dionisio: Actually, engaging the cities more and providing resources that will help nonprofits be able to reach out to the community, and do the work that's needed to meet the needs of the aging population. But again, it's a different population than what we've traditionally seen.
Ted Simons: Talk more about that. How does it differ?
Michelle Dionisio: Well, we're finding a lot of younger boomers coming and wanting to do meaningful work, more than just passing out drinks at the hospital. They really want to get involved in some planning. We have one volunteer who actually organized our bookstore for the nonprofit. We have a little bistro, she plans all the musicians coming in and doing jazz jams, and all kinds of activities. So really trying to tune in to each individual's skills and talents and being able to put it too work for the community. We have master gardeners who are helping with the community garden, so really finding meaningful ways to engage people.
Ted Simons: How do you find meaningful ways to engage people when the population is going to explode the way -- is there enough -- are there enough gardens? Is there enough to do?
Amy St. Peter: There's definitely a lot to do. There's enough to do. The problem is we aren't always lining people up with those opportunities. For example, in our survey we surveyed over a thousand people in Maricopa County, aged 55 and older. We asked them about their ability to interact with their peer and be engaged in the community. Nearly 75% of them had no idea about what was going on in the public level. And -- or really with the nonprofits, they never accessed those kind of facilities. 43% said they weren't aware of them, and a number of them just didn't have time. They're busy doing other things, going back to work when they thought they would stay in retirement. So we really need to carefully look at the population and really start planning right now. Because there are a lot of significant changes.
Ted Simons: What kind of planning can local governments do? Especially when you're talking about a group -- I see being active is important, employment, health, connecting with others, transportation. People don't even know that stuff is out there half the time. How do local governments respond?
Carol Kratz: I want to back up to your prior question, because there is an organization that is in place now called experience matters. That is really a focal point for connecting older adults who want to give back to the community, with nonprofits who are trained in how to use them and then matches are made. There's a new program called encore fellows that provides a stipend of up to $20,000 for these really skilled individuals who are retired to contribute back to the nonprofit. So I wanted to make sure that folks know about that. Local governments, it was fascinating at the mag meeting on Wednesday, there were combination of local governments, Universities, nonprofits, funders, everybody coming together to say, we understand that this is a different day, and we need to work together. So I don't think it's just local government, but local governments now have a growing number of older adults, Scottsdale is the number one city in the country with the highest percentage of older adults. 65 plus. And surprise is number 4. So it's not an issue for tomorrow, it's here now.
Ted Simons: I hear Scottsdale, I hear Surprise, and I also see things like affordable housing, in home care, those are important responses as far as these surveys and focus groups were concerned. How does that dynamic work?
Michelle Dionisio: And that's where volunteers really come in and help. We have 650 volunteers at Benevilla, primarily older adults providing that service to their neighbors and friends in the community. So I envision in the future we're going to see more of that, more families volunteering, we look at this as a community for all ages, in that everybody is getting involved to support one another. Share the assets we have.
Ted Simons: You mentioned so many folks don't really know what's out there. How can local government does a better job of letting people know what's out there?
Amy St. Peter: That's a great question. It's one of the questions we asked in our survey. People want to hear from email. They want to access things on web sites, and they aren't always wanting to come to the public hearings. It's natural to have a public hearing and then no one attends, or it has very limited attendance. People want us to go to them and to make that as accessible as possible, and that includes going online. And it's not something we're always doing enough, but some places we're doing more of and it's had a great impact.
Ted Simons: Does that make sense to you?
Carol Kratz: Absolutely. It goes back to the mind-set. Older adults aren't people who retire on Friday and go to a nursing home on Monday. I think some of our mind-set has them do. They're people who are vibrant who are active, who are engaged and who access information by email and we're going to see more and more of that.
Michelle Dionisio: I think, if I could just add to, that I'm seeing more and more home bound people relying on their computers to be able to access services and information.
Ted Simons: And again, that's what we talked about earlier with at home care, affordable housing, a lot of folks want to stay where they are. Is this more, so are you seeing more of this now?
Michelle Dionisio: Absolutely. In our community, there were early founders, 30 years ago that put our organization together. They really saw the vision and they said people don't want to move to another institution, they want to stay in their home. So we have handymen that install grab bars, we have people who take people to the beauty shop or to the doctor's appointments and different things like that. So really enabling people to stay home.
Amy St. Peter: And to build on that point, we conducted 135 interviews with key leaders throughout the region. And then we conducted 19 focus groups with more than 200 people, most of whom are over the age of 65. And resoundingly, they want to age in place. We don't always design our communities to allow people that option. So if they don't have a variety of options within their neighborhood, they have to move and build up new support systems, and often that's extremely difficult.
Ted Simons: How would you design communities to provide more options like that along those lines?
Amy St. Peter: It's important to look at housing, transportation, and employment. In terms of housing we need to have a range of housing options so if people want to downsize after their children move out, they can do that and stay in their neighborhood. Also a transportation, we need to make sure people can move easily throughout the region so they can get to the medical appointments, jobs, education, when we surveyed people, 11% said they use transit right now. That nearly triples to 30% in the next 10 years. They said in 10 years we won't be driving as much, the number goes from 90% now to 67% in 10 years according to their projections. And that's shifting to transit and to getting rise with family and friends. We need to make sure people have access to those.
Ted Simons: Last question, last word. What do you want people to take from this survey, what do we need to know? What do services, what does everyone need to know about an aging population?
Carol Kratz: The time is now to look at how this population has changed, and is changing. It's going to be a totally different group of folks that by 20 20, and to not come together and recognize these changes and look at our institutions, look at our cities, our towns, our nonprofits and figure out how do we make this even better. And I think we have the opportunity to do that with mag's study.
Ted Simons: Very good. Great conversation, good to have you all here. Thanks for joining us. Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," an update on plans to expand the metro light rail further into Mesa, and just in time for spring training, an ASU professor explains the science of baseball. That's Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," 5:30 and 10:00 right here on eight HD.
That it is for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Amy St. Peter:MAG's Human Services Manager; Carol Kratz:Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust; Michelle Dionisio:President and CEO of "Benevila";