Lee’s Summit is taking its first baby steps to deal with an aging population.
At a recent Planning Commission meeting, officials reviewed their progress on getting recognized as a Community for All Ages, an initiative started about five years ago by the Mid-America Regional Council. The Community for All Ages program consists of three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, based on three-steps: awareness, assessment and implementation.
Wednesday night at the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee, its members will hear a report on the economic impact of older people.
Like many communities across the country, Lee’s Summit has changing demographics with a bubble of people 65 and above, said Cathy Boyer-Shesol, the program’s manager at MARC.
She said that between 2011 and 2030, about 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65. There are about 75 million baby boomers, and the millennial population is even bigger, at around 83 million.
For Lee’s Summit, that’s notable, Boyer-Shesol said, because both groups show similar preferences in areas that will affect cities.
Both groups show tendencies to live in areas with mixed developments where they can walk to shopping and choose low-maintenance housing, she said. They want options for transportation and they want more affordable housing.
Boomers are planning to stay active longer, some working, and don’t want to have “quiet” retirements like their parents, she said. Many will want to age in place so will need transportation options.
As they get older, they will need more in medical services, help with transportation and help in staying socially connected.
The adjustment in population demographics will affect public safety, public works, parks and recreation and other areas.
“What does it mean for cities? Everything,” Boyer-Shesol said. “It will impact all city departments and community partners as well.”
Officials from Raymore, which recently achieved Gold status, also spoke to the commission, sharing some of the steps that town took. It takes acquiring a lot of data and community participation.
Commissioner Coleen Roberts said she thought Lee’s Summit has some catching up to do regarding providing housing and walkability.
She said that without walkability, people have to rely on public transportation, which is expensive to provide and limits freedom of movement because of schedules and locations for catching a ride. And more affordable housing means denser housing, she added.
“We’re going to have to get past the mental block where density is a dirty word,” Roberts said.
The City Council passed a resolution last July to start the process of getting the designation, and officials have been preparing for the first level, Bronze, which means the city is raising awareness of the program and the issues it’s intending to address, said Christina Stanton, who works in the city’s planning department.
Part of achieving Bronze level is putting information on the city website, at http://cityofls.net/City-of-Lees-Summit/About-the-City/Community-for-All-Ages.
It is also preparing to appoint a subcommittee of the Human Services Advisory Board for the assessment phase, Stanton said. At that point, the city will go through a checklist in the Communities for All Ages program that can identify needs the city is meeting and where it is lacking.
Lee’s Summit will reach the Gold level when it adopts an implementation plan to address needs it has uncovered during the assessment phase.