AMES, Iowa — Every generation puts its own spin on the aging process, and people today are approaching their 50s, 60s, 70s and older years differently from their parents. Mid Life & Beyond: The Whole Picture, from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, is helping Iowans take a closer look at how they want to age.
“The average retirement age nationally is now 62 with a life expectancy of 78 years,” said Susan Taylor, a family finance program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Iowans are looking for fulfilling and challenging experiences so they can use their talents and continue to be productive in their communities as they age.”
The Mid Life & Beyond program provides opportunities for communities to enhance quality of life for Iowans who are mid life in age or beyond, Taylor said. The program provides anyone age 45 or older an opportunity to explore several aspects of whole person wellness, including physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, occupational and financial concerns.
More than 40 percent of Iowans are 45 or older, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, “and like it or not, we will get older,” Taylor mused. Eighty-eight of Iowa’s 99 counties are projected to have at least 20 percent of their population at age 65 and older by 2030. The growing number of adults reaching traditional retirement age and beyond presents new challenges and opportunities for local communities as well as the state as a whole, Taylor said.
The Mid Life & Beyond program is more than just information, Taylor continued. A participating county or community offers a series of study circles, in which local residents can communicate their thoughts, concerns and ideas about how their community can improve and change to meet their needs.
Iowa communities have been participating in Mid Life & Beyond since January 2012, taking action on a variety of issues, said family finance program specialist Ruth Freeman, who is the Mid Life & Beyond team leader. Dubuque County is developing a directory of county services for seniors. Mills County has a weekly exercise program that was an outgrowth of the Living Well through Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise (LIFE) program in which older adults can socialize and exercise. Monona County’s Generation Connection project links high school seniors with older adults in the community who need assistance with household tasks such as raking leaves or washing windows.
Several communities are examining ongoing transportation needs and options for affordable housing. Other communities are developing volunteer programs, recreational and fitness activities, and entertainment opportunities.
Currently about a third of Iowa’s 99 counties are participating in Mid Life & Beyond study circles, Freeman said.
“When you join a study circle, your voice will be heard. But you’ll need to make a commitment and attend four sessions. Each session is two hours long and led by a trained facilitator who will help you turn your dreams into plans and take action to make a difference in your community,” Taylor said.
To learn more and find out how to get involved with Mid Life & Beyond, visit http://www.extension.iastate.edu/midlifeandbeyond/.