How L.A. Is Prepping for the Rising Gray Tide

L.A.’s population is aging faster than ever, but the city is taking action to help make life easier for older people

Los Angeles may be a young city, but it’s aging faster than ever. About 1.1 million people over the age of 65 live here today, and that figure is expected to double by 2030. To prepare for the rising gray tide, Mayor Garcetti helped launch Purposeful Aging L.A. in 2016, a multiyear initiative to make the region more navigable for seniors.

Tasked with implementing the program is Department of Aging general manager Laura Trejo, who has a long list of ways to make L.A. more friendly for older people. Here are a few strategies that stand out.

Help seniors stay social.

“About a third of Angelenos over the age of 60 live alone. I’m working with one of our providers to see how we can build a senior center without walls, through technology. Can we put a camera and a computer in the senior’s home so that they can see what’s happening at the senior center and participate and be heard and engage?

We have a cyber café at one senior center where seniors talk to seniors in another part of the city, and they become cyber buddies. We’ve had seniors using the Xbox to compete in bowling with seniors in New York.”

Make public transit more friendly.

“Los Angeles is a car-centric region. If you can’t drive anymore, what does that mean? Our Street Services department has been looking at, for example, the types of bus stop furniture necessary in areas with high concentrations of older people.

They’re trying to cater to the needs of a population that may be likely to use public transportation if it’s available, convenient, and comfortable. If there isn’t a bench, they put one in. If they need overhead protection from the sun or rain, they put that in as well.”

Improve services for aging homeless people.

“We’re seeing more adults end up homeless late in life. With older adults people sometimes think, ‘Well, you must not know what you’re doing. Should we put you in a nursing home?’ That might not be the response they need.

We’re preparing pilot programs to bring together our network of supportive services for seniors with the network of supportive services for homeless adults.”

Prepare better for emergencies.

“In recent emergencies like Florida, Houston, and Puerto Rico, the most negative outcomes occurred among older people. We’ve been working with students at USC to research models across the country to support older adults in emergencies and disasters. How can we use mapping technology? How could we look at registry models?

In Florida, for example, older adults can elect to be part of a registry where they let people know, ‘I live alone, I have oxygen, I have mobility challenges; if something happens to me, this is who you can notify.’ ”

RELATED: The Pros and Cons of Aging in L.A.

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