Environmental Regulations A Are Formulated Mostly At The Federal Leve How a Social Impact Calculator on Aging Can Help Your Community

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How a Social Impact Calculator on Aging Can Help Your Community

Many of our communities are involved in community needs assessments, community health needs assessments, community economic development plans, and ongoing planning for the built environment. All of these planning lenses are useful ways of looking at communities, and building for the future. One of the most important lenses to use for community planning for the next 10 to 20 years is the projected impact of aging on our communities, counties, and states. What does it mean for the state to go from 39th in proportion of older adults in 2010 to fourth by 2030? What does population change mean for the county that includes a projected decrease in people under the age of 40 along with an increase in older adults by 100% over the next 10 years?

Understanding demographic trends

The demographic trend has been called by many names, such as the “Age Wave,” or the “Silver Tsunami,” with arguments at meetings and on blogs about whether those terms are useful or pejorative, descriptive or ageist. Additionally, some people find the word “elderly” difficult, while others try to preserve “senior.” Once people work to parse the grammatical minefield, the most important issues are understanding both demographic trends and other real factors.

Although some in the field indicate that population aging is slow and easily absorbed, most experts agree that it is a significant, fast-moving trend that will not be easily contained. My research covers everything from future health professional shortages and health system gaps to the built environment, funding and policy trends. The potential impact of the aging of our population on communities and states is significant. This requires proactive, sustained responses at the community, state, and national levels.

Some communities and states are better positioned to respond to this trend than others.

The effect also depends on some other key factors

The ability of groups to respond effectively depends on a number of other key factors. Although demographic trends are the primary issue, other important factors affect our ability to respond:

  • overall community health;

  • poverty level, average and median income (especially for the middle-aged and elderly);

  • local municipal budgets, economic assessments, and tax capacity;

  • laws, policies and funding related to both aging and community development;

  • Regional infrastructure and the built environment.

The impact of demographic trends is also shaped by community state and regional planning already in place to address the impact of aging on our communities. Leadership and citizen engagement are also important factors that can help drive and mobilize initiatives. Leaders can and should respond. The issues are complex, but not overwhelming. However, they need to be proactively addressed.

How a social calculator can predict the potential impact of aging on communities and states

Many of these factors have been analyzed by our team over the past few years through age-related research and planning projects. We are now completing an Aging Social Impact Calculator that can provide an initial scan of the local environment and state environment. It looks at the key factors that shape the social, economic and community health of a county or state.

Research projects I have recently completed show that health, health benchmarking, economic benchmarks and policy issues help communities and states move forward or serve as additional challenges.

Social determinants. Social determinants shape us as individuals, families and communities. They include things like family income, employment, poverty and financial assets. Income, wealth, poverty, and unemployment have been demonstrated as some of the most important dimensions of family and community health, health disparities, and health equity. Race and ethnicity are viewed as highly important by the World Health Organization, US federal government agencies, and the health research and funding community. Individual, family and community educational levels are also important. Taken together, or aggregated, one finds community snapshots that reflect the local economy, employment and poverty; racial and ethnic mixing; and educational level. They help predict what our lives will be like in the future.

Community and State Health Rankings. Communities and states are rated on their overall health by several research groups. One of the major national assessments used is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJ) Annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. They provide excellent state and county ratings based on analysis using more than a few dozen different indicators. That ranking provides critical information to help determine whether an area is facing significant health disparities and disparities. Classification can tell planners that community health challenges will pose additional difficulties that negatively affect the community’s ability to respond to aging trends; Or Positive Community Health will help communities implement strategies to respond. These health rankings can help inform plans to address key issues more effectively.

Economic Benchmarks. Communities are greatly shaped by economic trends large and small. Short- and long-term economic assessments provide a picture of community economic health. Counties and states with strong economic ratings have a greater ability to deal with these challenges than those with weak economic pictures. Communities facing loss of jobs and capital, and a shrinking tax base are not as well positioned to respond to the Age Wave as communities with a different economic picture.

Other factors that can help predict the impact of demographic trends include whether or not an area has a net population loss. Areas that lose population will also begin to lose jobs and infrastructure over time, unless this can be proactively addressed.

Laws, policies, legislative initiatives and even funding priorities and strategies can shape how a local community or state is able to respond to this trend. Policies and funds that support economic development, the built environment, and services for older adults provide an environment that facilitates a community’s or county’s proactive response to this demographic trend.

The power of collective influence

The combined or collective effects of (1) demographic trends, (2) social determinants, (3) health status, (4) local and state economies, and (5) policies shape a region’s sustainability. They can also serve as general predictors of how hard a community may be hit by population aging. These factors provide a picture of what could happen for communities, counties and states. They help us understand current and projected collective impact.

Age Social Impact Calculator

The Aging Social Impact Calculator looks at states and counties, and provides a rough estimate of the level of impact you can expect from the aging population in your area. Some important benchmarks for creating a predictive image include:

  • Demographic factors

  • Social determinants of health

  • County Health Rankings (Health Outcomes and Health Risk Behaviors)

  • County economic picture

  • Policy and Funding Framework

Works at Predictor

Any social impact calculator has predictive capabilities. Many financial calculators have been used successfully by the World Bank, the Low Income Investment Fund, and others. of Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings and Roadmaps and state-level health department profiles (eg New Mexico Community snapshots) provide pictures of community health that capture both the present and the near future. The Aging Social Impact Calculator provides snapshots of the projected impact on a community, and how a community’s strengths and weaknesses will affect its ability to respond. It provides a helpful picture of local and state capacity, which can help leaders choose priorities that match their response capacity.

The predictors offer an overall general picture that can serve as an important starting point for communities and states to respond to the needs of older adults. They serve as a broad framework or roadmap. Once a predictive profile is developed, community leaders can look deeper into the community to:

  • understand and address key issues;

  • Select priorities, and create a size and scope of response that fits community capacity;

  • Build on community strengths and assets;

  • reduce risk;

  • Create plans that bring stakeholders together and leverage resources.

Each state and community has its own unique assets that can be used to answer this question, which is complex, and difficult to measure with a social impact calculator. These include wealthy families and social networks, community leaders, volunteers, faith communities and civic organizations representing important community assets.

1. The term “Age Wave” was coined by Ken Dichtwald decades ago to capture the coming demographic trend that was on the horizon, and now it’s a reality.

2. The Social Determinants of Health was developed by the World Health Organization, and used by major organizations (US Department of Health and Human Services, Kaiser Foundation) and major research institutions across the United States to deal with community health as a whole.

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