Despite Austin’s reputation for attracting tech-savvy millennials, the city is the nation’s fastest-growing population of adults ages 55-64 and the second fastest-growing population for people age 65 and older, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
In 2012, then-Mayor Lee Leffingwell convened the Task Force on Aging to tackle issues affecting Austin’s aging population, and what resulted after years of efforts was the Age-Friendly Austin Plan adopted by Austin City Council in November. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen said they count the age-friendly plan among their biggest accomplishments of 2016.
The initiative also produced a new nonprofit designed to serve the city’s older adults.
AustinUP began in 2014. Originally the nonprofit had a board of directors but no staff. Executive Director Teresa Sansone Ferguson joined in 2014 and has been leading the charge for connecting various local and national services for people age 55 and older, such as AARP Inc.
“They created the nonprofit to bring everyone together,” Ferguson said.
The Age-Friendly Austin Plan set to be implemented over a five-year period covers eight domains: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services.
Ferguson said one of the aims of the organization is to make sure that government is taking its aging citizens into account. She said the organization will be vocal during the process to adopt CodeNEXT, the city’s land development code rewrite. Slated to be adopted next year, CodeNEXT will help determine the new guidelines for city planning.
The Austin Commission on Seniors is developing work groups to implement the plan.
Ferguson said she likes to think of AustinUP as “extra bandwidth” to help coordinate support for the aging community. Over the past couple of years the organization has hosted job fairs for people age 55 and older in response to many voicing a need for employment after retirement, she said.
This year AustinUP decided to hold smaller job fairs in locations throughout the city.
The first two job fairs were held on March 28 and April 20. The next is set to be held May 16 at Silverado Care, 11330 Farrah Lane, Austin.
Ferguson said she is sometimes asked why so much attention is paid to supporting one demographic. She said a quarter of millennials today are in a caregiver role, so an improved quality of life for aging adults will benefit younger people, too.
“What we do for older adults actually will help everyone,” Ferguson said. “If there are procedures and policies put in place around the city of Austin, that will help the younger generations as they age.”