The boom is about to come down on U.S. cities: A recent National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4a)/ Metlife Foundation study of roughly 1,800 U.S. counties, cities and municipalities revealed that just 46 percent are preparing for a large population of aging baby boomers.
The survey is a wake-up call for cities to re-examine their policies, programs and services aimed at older Americans, says Sandy Markwood, CEO of N4a, a Washington, DC, organization helping elderly and disabled Americans live independently. "For some communities, the aging of the population has kind of snuck up on them," she says.
Matt Thornhill, president of The Boomer Project, a Richmond, Virginia-based research and consulting firm, believes business opportunities--well as city contracts--willll open up for entrepreneurs as cities scramble to get ready. "There will be a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs," he says, including privately operated mass transit and home adaptation consultants.
Thornhill predicts other changes as well, such as dimmer switches in restaurant booths and other places that let boomers adjust the lighting so they can read. Universal design--making all products easier to grip and use--will also be a major trend.
The N4a report highlights the need for infrastructure changes, such as street signs with larger print, wheelchair-accessible walking trails, and pedestrian signals with extended walk times. Boomers will also need financial advice, fitness classes, work force retraining and nutritional education.
In the short term, entrepreneurs will face strict city ordinances and homeowners' associations that could stall their ideas until the boomers inevitably revise their own rules. Says Thornhill, "Clearly, there's going to be change."