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The Silver Lining Chronicles - Portland a Model for Other 50+ Communities

Does Long Island offer all it should to meet the needs of an aging population?

I'm a New Yorker at heart but, as a teenager, I fell in love with Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and I've visited too many times to count. The sand, surf, sun, and yes, even the humidity are my idea of perfection. In my golden years, that's where you'll find me - guaranteed!

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that both Long Island (where I reside) and Miami, Florida (where I'm headed) were on the very bottom of a list of 50 U.S. cities best suited for seniors.  Depending on whether you're looking at the 2005 survey by Bankers Life and Casualty Company or AARP's 2007 list of Top 5 cities for Seniors to live, Portland, Ore., came in first or second place.

Other top cities included:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Chandler, AZ
  • Boston, MA (Beacon Hill)
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Seattle, WA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Pittsburgh, PA

Fortunately, the government is well aware that in the next 20 years, there will be a senior population numbering in the millions and trillions of dollars are expected to be spent in anticipation of that change in demographics. This is good news if your city didn't make the cut. In the future, it might.

But what about tennis and golf? Isn't that what every retiree is looking for?

Apparently not.

The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are aging. The earliest members of that generation have reached the age of 65. No one characteristic defines them. They might be empty nesters, active retirees, or seniors who are still employed. A study called "The Maturing of America:  Getting Communities on track for an Aging Population was funded by The Metlife Foundation recently. They are looking for ways to meet the complex needs of older residents.

There are many things that make a place ideal for this growing segment of the population. Essentially, the city needs to provide an easy way of life. Access to public transportation, barrier-free homes, good healthcare, and libraries are all important. Let's examine why Portland, Oregon is at the top of everybody's list.

Officially known as "The City of Roses" since 2003, Portland, Oregon is in the Northwestern U.S. and is found where the Williamette and Columbia rivers meet. It is said to be one of the most environmentally progressive (green) cities in the world. There are an abundance of microbreweries, microdistilleries, and coffee houses. It is home to the NBA team: Trail Blazers.

The temperate Oceanic climate makes for warm, dry summers (average 90 degrees Farenheit) and rainy, but mild winters (average 40 degrees Farenheit). The 155 average days of rainfall, spread throughout the year, is ideal for growing roses, hence their designation.

Portland is proud of its parks and its tradition of preserving open spaces. There is a lively, well-known, revitalized area known as The Pearl District. The former warehouse and industrial space, located just north of downtown, has been converted to lofts, condos, eateries, shops, and art museums.

If that doesn't sound like enough excitement for you, Portland is also home to the World Naked Bide Ride - a well established tradition started in 1999 with just a handful of participants. In June of 2010, there were 13,000 people who joined in this event which was pulled off without a hitch. If you're looking for something to do, you'll have no trouble finding it in Portland.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we bring this bike ride here. I'm only hinting that we use some of these top cities as role models to design the Long Island of tomorrow. In order to meet the needs of our aging population, there are changes that will have to take place. Why not start with public transportation?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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