Cary wants to be more senior-citizen friendly

aspecht@newsobserver.comJuly 7, 2014 

— As a senior citizen, Dixie Ferris says it’s fairly easy to live in Cary.

The streets are safe and walkable. The town has a bus system, C-Tran, that provides door-to-door service for Cary residents who are disabled or older than 60. And the Cary Senior Center offers many classes like the one she attended recently about how to arrange flowers in a bouquet.

The only critique that came to mind: Some of her friends wish C-Tran operated on Sundays.

“They want to get up and go to church on Sunday mornings, but they can’t because they don’t have a way to get there,” she said.

Cary’s transportation options, among other town services, will soon come under the microscope.

The Cary Town Council is creating an Aging Issues Task Force, a group of town officials and residents that will investigate how the town serves its growing population of senior citizens.

Residents over the age of 65 made up 12 percent of Cary’s population in 2000. By 2011, that number had grown to 22 percent.

Baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – are the fastest-growing segment of Cary’s population.

The town has talked about the issue for several years, said Town Councilman Ed Yerha, the council’s liaison to the task force. He hopes the group can make specific recommendations to the council to help improve the quality of life for seniors.

“A lot of people that came here for jobs 20 years ago are getting ready to retire,” Yerha said. “We don’t want them to leave.”

The task force will evaluate the town’s senior-friendliness with help from Triangle J, a council made up of government officials from 37 municipalities.

Triangle J formed a “tool kit” the town will use to grade aspects of senior life in Cary, from how fast the town grants permits for wheelchair ramps to how many physicians’ offices are located in senior-dense areas.

The task force will also seek to determine if:

• Residents have choices for accessible and visitable housing in a range of price levels and sizes.

• Seniors can easily access home modifications, such as wheelchair ramps.

• Residents are aware of a variety of flexible housing arrangements, such as accessory dwelling units and home sharing.

• The supply of supportive housing units for older adults and adults with disabilities is adequate to meet demand (by determining occupancy rates for assisted living/senior housing/government subsidized housing and the number of residents on waiting lists for these housing units).

• Transportation is available, accessible, acceptable and affordable.

Cary is the first community to use Triangle J’s program, which Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson called cutting-edge.

“We want to be a place where people will feel comfortable aging in place,” she said.

The results of the study could help attract new businesses too, she said.

“It’s not just a humanitarian effort, but an economic development tool,” she said.

The council is expected to appoint members to the task force later this summer.

The town hopes the task force will complete its report by the end of the year, according to Russ Overton, an assistant town manager.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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