WalletHub’s recent report painted Kentucky with too broad a brush, and I see a Kentucky worthy of celebrating by any measure. As a retirement destination or a place to raise a family, our state has unique resources, opportunities and strong communities.
WalletHub missed these and other important measures that make Kentucky a great state to live in at any stage in life.
Retirement is changing as Americans are living and working longer than their grandparents. By 2030, one in four Americans will be over age 50 and our 60-plus population will double to 72 million.
Today, the fastest-growing segment is people over 65. As the population ages and people stay healthy and active longer, communities must invest and adapt to build communities that let us live our lives fully.
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Well-designed, livable communities promote health and sustain economic growth, and they make for happier, healthier residents — of all ages. The Age Friendly Communities Network is seeking to do that and it’s a movement whose time has come with 139 participating communities nationwide.
Analysts at WalletHub admitted, “It’s difficult for states to rank highly for retirement destinations across the board.” While Kentucky has historically struggled with some measures, the Livability Index offers a different snapshot of data. In one measure, Kentucky ranks above the national average in several quality-of-life rankings.
There is a pressing need to create an age-friendly Kentucky. Our population is aging faster than the national average and research shows that 77 percent of registered voters age 45 and older want to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
But to achieve improved measures we need well-designed, age-friendly communities to promote better health outcomes and sustainable economic growth, and they make for happier, healthier residents — of all ages.
Berea, Bowling Green, Lexington and Louisville are all working to ensure their communities have the appropriate infrastructure in place for citizens to age with dignity and independence. The mayors of all four cities are officially enrolled in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.
The network provides tools and resources to communities for actively engaging their citizens, seeking community input to establish action plans responding to the needs identified by members of their community.
These communities are working to adopt age-friendly features and supports such as safe, walkable streets, affordable housing and transportation options, access to services, and opportunities to participate in civic and community activities.
Through the network, these city leaders and local volunteers have access to resources on best practices, models of assessment and implementation, and the shared experiences of towns and cities.
In 2015, then-candidate Matt Bevin, now governor, asked the right question: “Why should Kentucky not be an attractive beacon to retirees all across America?”
I believe Kentucky can be a beacon for retirees with an age-friendly vision and leadership committed to supporting citizens where we live and where we age.
Ron Bridges is state director of AARP Kentucky.
At issue: Herald-Leader staff report: “Retire in Kentucky? New analysis says state is among worst for retirees”