Creating Community for a Lifetime


News Release


Karen Hogan
Phone: 616.863.0009 Email:

Unprecedented Initiative Examines Future Needs, Issues of Area's Aging Boom

At first glance, a police officer and a home-building advocate seem like an unlikely duo to plan for an influx of senior citizens in Kent County.

Yet Harry Dolan, Grand Rapids' chief of police, and Judy Barnes, EVP/CEO of the Home and Building Association of Greater Grand Rapids, are two of nearly 100 area leaders from virtually every aspect of society embracing an unprecedented effort for addressing a projected doubling of Kent County residents age 65 and older.

Currently, one in 10 adults is age 65 or older; by 2030, that figure is expected to double, with Hispanic older adults expected to grow at a faster rate than any other race or ethnic group in Kent County.

Creating Community For A Lifetime is an ambitious, long-term, community-wide initiative unveiled today at "New Visions of Aging: Engaged Older Adults Strengthening Communities," a forum on aging held today at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Sponsored by the Area Agency on Agency and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Initiative is aimed at meeting the needs and harnessing the talents of the area's rapidly growing older population. Leaders will explore key issues inherent in an aging population, including civic engagement, public safety, transportation, health, employment, housing, education and financial security.

"We are on the cusp of a transformation about what it means to grow old in our country and community," says Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. "The policies, practices and attitudes we choose to adopt will impact far more than our area‚s aging adults. This Initiative will help lay the groundwork for embracing the countless opportunities inherent in this dynamic demographic shift."

Tom Czerwinski, director of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, echoes similar feelings.

"This initiative is an extraordinary opportunity to identify actions for effectively tapping the resources of large numbers of healthy, vital older adults who have both the time and talents to make enormous contributions to community betterment," he said.

As the baby-boomer generation begins turning 65 in January, 2006, Marc Freedman, a national expert on aging and a keynote speaker at today's forum, counters notions that a growing older population will cause a disastrous drain on public resources, and that retirement is a time of disengagement and inactivity.

"Due to their collective size, the boomers will have a large impact on defining the expectations and aspirations of the "new senior citizen," as well as on shaping the perspectives of seniors to follow," he said. "This is a good time to focus; to begin shaping the changing face of our cities and neighborhoods."

Members of the Creating Community for a Lifetime Initiative will meet regularly over the next several months, assessing elderly-friendly indicators and providing perspective on current and future capacity of the community in addressing issues related to an older population.

The Initiative is supported by the Lucy E. Barnett Trust for the Elderly of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Founded 30 years ago, the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) exists to help older adults and persons with disabilities live in their community with independence and dignity.

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the oldest community foundation in Michigan, was founded in 1922. It continues to fund, initiate and lead programs that benefit the Grand Rapids area in the arts, community development, education, environment, health, and human services.