Joe Gardyasz is the Business Record’s Health & Wellness beat reporter.Have an idea or tip? (515) 661-6084 | joegardyasz@bpcdm.comTwitter: @JoeGardyasz
Joe Gardyasz is the Business Record’s Health & Wellness beat reporter.

Have an idea or tip? (515) 661-6084 |

Twitter: @JoeGardyasz

Catering to seniors will be key for communities

Gray may be the new gold for smaller Iowa communities, said Rand Fisher, executive director of Iowa Area Development Group, which works with communities through much of the state.

With an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers nationally reaching retirement age every day, communities need to ensure that development of health-care facilities and age-friendly amenities for seniors keeps pace with other economic development investments.

Providing adequate assisted living centers, senior housing and updated clinics and hospitals will be increasingly important in Iowa, particularly in smaller communities.

“We’ve been very clear with community leaders about being attentive to not losing their seniors, because with them goes a lot of wealth and ability,” Fisher said. “The challenge is to make our communities as attractive as possible to seniors who are no longer tethered to the community by their family or jobs.”

Greater Des Moines, meanwhile, in 2012 embarked on a five-year Age-Friendly City program, an initiative to develop priorities for addressing the needs of the aging population in the metro area.

Led by AARP Iowa State Director Kent Sovern and experts from Des Moines University and Aging Resources of Central Iowa, the initiative put Greater Des Moines on a path toward joining a global network of outstanding communities for older residents recognized by the World Health Organization.

Better health ahead in 2013?

The Healthiest State Initiative hopes to see continued momentum in 2013, as five working groups fine-tune health goals identified for the state in 2012.

Ric Jurgens, chairman of the public-private initiative, said work on the five priority areas will supplement other Healthiest State programs and general education efforts.

Five committees – Nutrition, Tobacco Use, Workplace Well-Being, Dental Health and Lifelong Learning – are expected to come out with initial recommendations for carrying out these goals sometime in the first quarter of 2013.

Other aspects of the Healthiest State Initiative include the Blue Zones project, in which demonstration communities have been selected to receive assistance from national experts in developing and implementing changes to help residents live more healthful lives.

Iowa will learn early in 2013 whether it’s making progress, at least according to the Gallup-Healthways Index, a nationwide survey the initiative is using to benchmark its efforts relative to other states. Iowa most recently ranked 16th healthiest among states in the index, up from 19th in 2010. The next Gallup-Healthways Index results are due out in February.

Health priority goals are:
  • Decreasing the number of Iowans who smoke.
  • Increasing the average Iowan’s consumption of fruits and vegetables to five or more servings daily at least four days a week.
  • Increasing the number of Iowans who are learning or doing something interesting every day.
  • Increasing the number of Iowans who have visited the dentist in the past 12 months.
  • Increasing the number of working Iowans who feel their boss treats them like a partner at work.