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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

In our View: ‘Silver Tsunami’ is Approaching

County task force presents plan for helping senior citizens

The Columbian
Published: February 11, 2012, 4:00pm

Many local residents look forward to growing old, and they should. The golden years should be our most enjoyable. And besides, the onslaught of time is inevitable.Lots of folks want to spend those years in Clark County, and they should. We think it’s the best place in the world. But unlike growing old, living here is optional. To make that choice easier, the Clark County Aging Readiness Task Force last week presented 91 recommendations to county commissioners, who approved the plan.

Granted, the blueprint does not exactly deliver an immediate and seismic wallop. You’ll see a lot of references like “encourage” or “prioritize” or “entice.” And, although many of the recommendations could require a slight to substantial outlay of public funds, no revenue sources are listed. Still, our community must recognize the “silver tsunami” that’s approaching, and prepare for it. In that regard, the task force hit a home run with its report, which was inspired by the realization that, by 2030, one in four local residents will be 60 or older (today it’s one in six). Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the local population and, statewide, Washington will rank 11th in the nation.

We commend the 25 members who served on the task force, most of them experts in housing, health care, transportation and support services. They were led by chairman Jesse Dunn, and their dedication was shown through numerous meetings , a public hearing and careful deliberations leading up to the report to commissioners. Credit also is due the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities, which in 2009 worked with Washington State University Vancouver and other groups to host a countywide forum. That led to the creation of the task force.

Among the general recommendations: Promote higher-density housing and mixed-use development to help keep older people in their homes; increase seniors’ access to public transportation; keep them engaged in the community through activities, exercise and recreation; take advantage of their expertise by expanding volunteer programs.

Now we can see: The future of Clark County for seniors becomes even brighter than the present.

Here are other specifics from the plan:

Healthy Communities — Encourage sustainable urban agriculture; prioritize grocery store development in under-served areas; construct interpretive heritage trails; develop a healthy food store incentive program.

Engagement — Assist seniors to re-career by developing a Senior Talent Pool.

Housing — Provide website links to resources in Clark County that can help you modify, remodel or find a new home; coordinate with Clark County Association of Realtors about increasing the number of senior real estate specialists; allow co-housing to be developed in single-family residential zones.

Transportation — Support the use of neighborhood electric vehicles; support Human Services Council efforts to fund a mobility manager who would coordinate transportation services for seniors; provide bus rapid transit or light-rail transit service to areas where the density and ridership will support it.

Supportive Services — Encourage and promote the establishment of the Elder Justice Center; encourage the development of a Vial of Life program; encourage employers to provide more flexibility for employees who also are caregivers.

For more information, visit http://www.clark.wa.gov/planning/aging/.