Best city for geezers? NY lays claim

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New York City seems to be all aglow in being named by the World Health Organization to its Global Network of Age-friendly cities. As Clyde Haberman reported about the event in the July 1 New York Times,

“It makes us members of a club of people who are struggling, in their own and perhaps much different ways, with learning about and thinking about and approaching this issue,” said Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services. “It’s really a lovely recognition.”

One reason for the acknowledgment was a plan that city officials and the New York Academy of Medicine announced last year to improve life for older New Yorkers. All sorts of ideas were put forth, on matters like transportation, housing, health care, job training, nutrition and cultural activities. To a large degree, it was more a wish list than a concrete program. But at least it showed that the city was thinking about issues that will only become more dominant.

Like other cities, New York has a population that is aging, if you will forgive a somewhat meaningless word that we are stuck with. After all, everyone is aging. It’s called living. The only people not aging are dead.

WHO says, of its Global Nework of Age-friendly Cities, that the problem lies with the fact that too many of us are aging and not dying.

Populations in almost every corner of the world are growing older. The greatest changes are occurring in less-developed countries. By 2050, it is estimated that 80% of the expected 2 billion people aged 60 years or over will live in low or middle income countries. The Network aims to help cities create urban environments that allow older people to remain active and healthy participants in society.

To that end, the Network got off the ground a few years ago, and now lists a few cities across the globe as having been accepted for membership. This week’s bulletin (excerpted above and below) lists the Big Apple as the first U.S. member, although the PDF of member cities also lists Portland, and one has to wonder how Portland’s going to feel about all of New York’s hoopla.

The WHO Age-friendly Cities initiative began in 2006 by identifying the key elements of the urban environment that support active and healthy ageing. Research from 33 cities, confirmed the importance for older people of access to public transport, outdoor spaces and buildings, as well as the need for appropriate housing, community support and health services. But it also highlighted the need to foster the connections that allow older people to be active participants in society, to overcome ageism and to provide greater opportunities for civic participation and employment.

The Global Network builds on these principles but takes them a significant step further by requiring participating cities to commence an ongoing process of assessment and implementation. Network members are committed to taking active steps to creating a better environment for their older residents.

A few years ago (2006) the Sperling’s Best Places people came out with a “Best Cities” list about which do the best job of caring for their aging folks. The “Best Cities for Seniors” study examined the state of senior care in the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

“This is different from the usual studies of retirement living,” said Bert Sperling, the study’s primary author. “When we first retire, we have the energy for traveling and sightseeing. At some point, we will all need specialized resources and facilities to help us cope with aging. That’s what this study examines.”

This unique new study, produced in partnership with Bankers Life and Casualty Company, identifies cities that offer the best resources for less active seniors. The study analyzed nearly 50 categories such as various senior living facilities, comprehensive medical care, specialized transportation services, and a significant senior population.

Top Ten Cities for Seniors

  1. Portland, OR
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Milwaukee, WI
  6. Philadelphia, PA
  7. New York, NY
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Cincinnati, OH
  10. Chicago, IL

Haberman takes issue with that ‘Senior’ word along with the ‘aging’ word. “What does that make the rest of the populace — juniors?” This space (an unabashed fan of Sperling’s #3 city — sorry, #7; but you’re my #2) concurs. But Great Geezer Towns probably wouldn’t cut it with WHO.

Who really needs H1N1 vaccine?

This new piece of the H1N1 puzzle – to vaccinate or not – does seem to be the first no-brainer we’ve been dealt, especially among all the full-brainer problems floating around with no apparent solutions. The whole business of whom to vaccinate, how to ration, whether to Be Very Afraid because the vaccine is dangerous and maybe the pandemic itself is a vast conspiracy, is becoming the stuff of legend as well as news. Also the stuff of comedy.

Unless, of course, you happen to catch the virus and turn out to be quite sick. A friend in Georgia had that experience and isn’t laughing. But she is the exception (58, otherwise healthy and unvaccinated) and recovered in less than two weeks.

Here’s what seems to be a good rule: if you’re over 65, maybe even over 55, just don’t get it. The vaccine, that is; try not to get H1N1 either; with reasonable precaution you probably won’t. If all of us in this category would quit obsessing and worrying and adopt this just-don’t-get-it policy, there will probably be quite enough to go around for those who do need it: children, pregnant women, people with cystic fibrosis, healthcare workers, etc.

The pandemic could be on its way out anyway. Although President Obama has declared H1N1 flu to be a national emergency (a good move, since it freed up hospitals to pitch triage tents in parking lots, etc, if necessary, and allows other emergency steps to be taken) some experts including Ira M. Longini Jr., an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle (quoted in the October 24 New York Times) believe the peak has about been reached. “Indeed,” writes Times reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in that same news summary, “cases have already started to decline in the Southeastern states, where they spiked in August when schools opened.”

The best news of the pandemic is probably the fact that it has become fodder for stand-up comics and comedy shows. Once we start laughing at things they tend to whittle themselves down to sanity. My favorite message so far came from host Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, in response to some of the craziness coming from the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. What we need, Daily suggested, is a vaccine against the vaccine, so we could have peace of mind while being vaccinated. Or while passing on the vaccine altogether.

A little peace of mind goes a long way these days.