Frisco accommodating for senior citizens as population increases

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Frisco’s senior population nearly doubled in a five-year span, increasing 95 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The growing senior citizen population is not just a local trend. Global organizations such as the World Health Organization have taken note of the aging population worldwide and have made efforts to address the needs of seniors everywhere.

The WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, for instance, was established to encourage communities to share knowledge and insight on how to best accommodate for senior citizens. A guide published by WHO for the network outlines specific areas city officials should focus efforts to make a city senior-friendly. These areas include housing and development, transportation infrastructure and job opportunities.

Though not listed as a member of WHO’s network, Frisco has seen growing efforts to make the city attractive and accessible to seniors, including increased housing options, transportation solutions and a senior-specific job fair.

“We actually have a very fast-growing senior population,” Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “… Because of that, we want Frisco to be a full life cycle community, meaning you can live here as a kid, go to school here, work here and then have different housing options all the way through all your senior needs.”

Development
When it comes to housing for senior citizens, the less maintenance that is involved, the better. Frisco Development Services Director John Lettelleir said seniors often will opt for single-story homes or urban living apartments because they are easier to maintain. Frisco Lakes, for instance, is an age-restricted subdivision with single-story homes in West Frisco.

Lettelleir said many developers, unfortunately, want to build two-story homes, which the city cannot control.

“This becomes a real challenge of having a lot of two-story homes because we’ll find most [seniors]will prefer single story, stay away from the stairs since that’s one main tripping hazard,” he said.

What the city can control is the design of neighborhoods and commercial developments, making sure the overall development has features that are conducive to seniors, Lettelleir said. Shorter neighborhood blocks help keep cars from speeding through communities, for instance.

Walkability is also an area of focus when city officials consider a development, Lettelleir said. Sidewalks should be wide with smooth surfaces and easily connect to open space as well as connect residential and commercial developments, he said.

Affordability of housing is a concern for seniors on the local and global level. WHO’s network guide suggests that a tax break on housing for seniors or allowing housing subsidies could help seniors move into a home that is appropriate for their needs.

“There’s also a population that I’m finding that’s moving out here with their loved ones that are relocating that are looking for affordable housing—apartments—that can’t afford to buy,” said Flo Ricks, the job fair chairwoman for the Frisco Chamber of Commerce Senior Service Alliance.

The state of Texas offers seniors a homestead exemption of $10,000 for school district property taxes. On top of that, Frisco offers a 7.5 percent homestead exemption for city property taxes and an $80,000 exemption for residents age 65 and older.

Transportation
The need for transportation for seniors is also growing in Frisco. The city contracts with the Denton County Transportation Authority to provide demand-response transportation for seniors and disabled residents. Since the inception of services in 2015, nearly 10,000 rides have been requested, increasing by more than 2,000 rides between fiscal year 2015-16 and FY 2016-17, according to DCTA.

Some of that ridership growth is attributed to an expansion of services. In March, DCTA began offering taxi service to supplement the existing services. The taxi service transports eligible residents to locations in Plano. DCTA also offers rides within Frisco and into McKinney and Allen.

Michelle Bloomer, DCTA assistant vice president of business operations, said DCTA currently has enough resources to continue growing services for Frisco residents.

“At some point, potentially in the future, we may reach capacity,” she said. “Then we would have to go back to the city of Frisco just to determine what they would like to do to proceed—either to provide additional resources or to cap the service at a certain level. But what we have seen is continued growth month over month since we implemented the taxi component.”

Cheney said he could see the city partnering with a private company, such as Uber or Lyft, in the future
to provide transit services either through DCTA or otherwise. These types of services could provide an immediate response to transportation needs, he said.

Jobs and volunteering
Not all seniors want to stop working after retirement or even want to retire, Ricks said. Knowing this, the Senior Service Alliance held its first senior job and volunteer fair this year. More than 170 people attended to find job and volunteer opportunities, she said.

Ricks said the fair was so successful that the alliance plans to hold another, larger fair Sept. 17, 2018.

“[Seniors are] a huge population, and there are people that want to hire them because they’re loyal, hardworking, dedicated and they have a body
of knowledge over the years that they’re able to share and impart upon younger workers that are in the workforce,” she said.

Companies or organizations that want to hire seniors need to make
that fact known to the community, Ricks said.

Cheney said seniors make up a large portion of the city’s volunteers. Seniors can also provide knowledge and expertise on Frisco’s boards or commissions, he said.

“There’s a lot of talent that serves on our boards—ex CEOs and so forth—that still want to use what they’ve learned and their skills to give back to their community,” he said. “There’s many ways that the city has been able to take advantage of our senior population.”

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Lindsey Juarez
Lindsey has been involved in newspapers in some form since high school. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2014 with a degree in Journalism. While attending UTA, she worked for The Shorthorn, the university's award-winning student newspaper. She was hired as Community Impact Newspaper's first Frisco reporter in 2014. Less than a year later, she took over as the editor of the Frisco edition. Since then, she has covered a variety of topics and issues important to the community, including the city's affordable housing shortage, the state's controversial A-F school accountability system and the city's "Bury the Lines" efforts.
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