Preparing for an aging population

Published 8:51 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Like it or not, we cannot stop the aging process. With each new year comes another tally added to our age. In cities and in urban planning, we attempt to make our communities places for all ages from 5-year olds up through 95-year olds. But there is a unique situation that is quickly coming upon us — the Baby Boomers (birth years 1946 to 1964). There are so many people in this generation that communities and cities must change how they view aging and the types of services they provide in order to accommodate this aging generation.
We see this in some of the activities and services some of our neighboring cities are doing. Johnson City built a new Senior Center a few years ago to accommodate more people and have focused on building trail systems and walkable areas in their city (data suggests this generation desires walkable communities and trail systems, so they can remain independent longer). Kingsport has installed a new downtown passive park with a carousel and has been working to develop additional trail systems and birding tours. Jonesborough has just completed a new senior center to accommodate additional growth.
Today, in Elizabethton, just under 30 percent of the city’s population is over the age of 60. According to recent estimates, just under 40 percent of the city’s population will be over the age of 60 by 2036. This means over 1,400 additional 60 plus year olds by 2036 than today or roughly 10 percent more of the city’s population will be over 60. Interestingly, the age group under 40 is projected to remain stable during this same time period.
So how do we deal with and prepare for this age wave? Well, I think one of the first things we must do is ask the boomers themselves! What type of community do they desire? What amenities would they like to have in place as they age? Are there any additional services they would like to have as they age that they do not have now? All of these questions must be asked in order to provide the type of community that Elizabethton Baby Boomers desire.
We can also look to generational research to give us an idea of what type of community this generation wants as they age. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has completed research on what communities need in order to be friendly to retirees and compiled it into an easy to use interface. It’s called the Livability Index and currently Elizabethton is rated 55 out of 100 (Johnson City is a 54, Bristol 50, Jonesborough 50, and Greeneville 48). Using this index and input from citizens, we can work to create a desirable, and livable community to live in not only for our aging population, but everyone. Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted at 542-1503 or via email at:

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox