AMES, Iowa — Iowa isn’t ready when it comes to a growing aging population. That is the assessment of Iowa State University’s Jennifer Margrett, who is Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies. Margrett chairs the ISU Department of Gerontology.
“Actually I think it is a crisis,” said Margrett. “We have a growing demographic of older adults in this state, we’re one of the oldest states, particularly when you look at the 75-85 plus age group,” said Margrett.
“We know that a lot of individuals and families aren’t prepared to think about aging and work with aging related issues,” said Margrett. “We tend not to think about life span issues, not until there is a crisis for an individual where families start to talk about these issues.”
Margrett is partnering with the Iowa Department on Aging, and the Iowa Alzheimers Association to improve access to dementia-capable services. “As people age, they, their families, and the people they interact with aren’t prepared to think about needs, especially related to dementia,” said Margrett. “Another problem is the fragmentation of services that are in place.” Margrett said this partnership would help shore up services and help inform people where to turn when they need help.
Iowa is one of 20 grey states, where the aging population is growing. Soon the population will be one in five seniors, shortly after it will grow to one in four, according to Margrett. “We just don’t have enough individuals to provide resources counseling, communities aren’t set up to be aging friendly communities, so everything from having sidewalks, accessible stores and businesses,” said Margrett.
Margrett said there is an upside to the growing senior population. “Older adults bring a lot to our state in terms of the economy in terms of families,” said Margrett.
She added they do other things like caring for children and grandchildren, they take on second careers and volunteering.