Extension Program Raises Awareness about Aging in Dubuque County

“May is Older American’s Month, so we are taking some time to recognize the reality that an increasing number of Iowans are getting older each day,” said Susan Taylor, Iowa StateUniversity Extension and Outreach, Family Life and Family Finance Specialist.  The average retirement age nationally is now 62 with a life expectancy of 78 years.  Of the 99 counties in Iowa, 88 are projected to have at least 20% of their population aged 65 and over by 2030.  The growing number of adults reaching traditional retirement age and beyond presents new challenges and opportunities for communities within Iowa as well as the state as a whole.
During the past two years, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – Dubuque County offered two series of Mid Life and Beyond  “study circles” looking at the needs of an aging community.  Forty-one percent of Dubuque County’s population is 65 and older.  With that comes challenges and needs for these individuals. Each four-session study circle series looked at what is it like to be a person who is “mid-life and beyond” in our community; what are people doing in our community; how can the community be a better place; and reaching our vision – moving words into action.
The Mid Life and Beyond program challenged participants to consider what can be done to create aging-friendly communities.  The participants were community members 45 years and older who considered what it takes to have fulfilling, challenging, and productive lives which reflect the seven domains of whole person wellness. Challenges to health and well-being are significant across these seven domains:
·         physical                                                          • intellectual
·         emotional                                                       • occupational
·         spiritual                                                         •financial well-being
·         social

Each day more “baby boomers” are entering the ranks of retirement, and this large group of individuals will pose even more challenges for communities trying to provide services for seniors.
The two groups of Mid Life and Beyond study circles identified the following projects during their “Action Forums”: 

  1. Directory of Senior Services. The Community Resource Guide has been updated with more resources and information for seniors.  The guides are now available through United Way and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach - Dubuque County.  
  2.  More Easily Assessable Senior Activities. Seniors are trying to connect with meaningful activities, and some additional resources have been included in the Community Resource Guide.
  3. Intergenerational Activities – Technology. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach - Dubuque County originally worked with a Loras College professor to offer a series of three classes in which Loras students provided one-on-one mentoring for seniors about computers and technology.  Currently a professor from the University of Dubuque is offering these classes.  The classes do fill almost immediately, so there might be a waiting list for a future class.  Call (563)583-6496 to register.
  4. Life-Long Learning Connections. Seniors are looking for new ways to learn new skills, socialization with others, audit classes at local universities colleges and stay active through exercise.
  5. Connect Seniors with Volunteer Opportunities. Identify the gaps and needs working with volunteers and better match the volunteers with needs of agencies and groups. Encourage more training for volunteer managers on how to recruit seniors and keep them engaged with meaningful volunteer work.

For more information, contact Susan Taylor, taylorse@iastate.eduor (563)583-6496 To learn more about Mid Life and Beyond  visit http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/midlife-and-beyond

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