Officials seek better communities for seniors

One out of every five people living in the Atlanta area is expected to be age 60, or older, by 2030, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

In response to that projection, metro counties, including Clayton County, are working with the ARC to create communities that will meet the needs of people as they age. The ARC calls this its “Lifelong Communities Initiative.”

There are three “major” goals, according to the ARC’s web site, including: The promotion of housing and transportation options for residents; the encouragement of healthier lifestyles, and the expansion of information about, and access to, community services.

“We’re looking at creating places where our seniors can walk everywhere, so that they can do activities, such as going grocery shopping, and going to other, different locales without ever having to get in a car,” said Clayton County Spokesperson Jamie Carlington.

The Clayton County Senior Services Department, the City of Morrow, the ARC and the Georgia Chapter of the AARP –– the senior citizens’ organization –– will work together to host a “Walkability” workshop in Morrow, on Thursday. Carlington said the workshop, which will include a walk around portions of Morrow, is open only to certain stakeholders, who are participating in the county’s “Lifelong Communities” efforts.

Those stakeholders, she said, include: Southern Regional Medical Center, the Clayton County Board of Health, the Clayton County Senior Services Department, the Clayton County Economic Development Department, and each of the cities that are at least partially located in the county.

Clayton County Senior Services Director Mary Byrd said, in a written statement, that a recent study conducted by her department and officials from the ARC, shows that 86 percent of county residents drive their own car. She added that the results show that 55 percent of residents feel the county is “an excellent, to very good place” to retire.

The study also shows, however, that only 37 percent of residents received a flu shot within the last year; while 57 percent had received “misinformation” about long-term care; 84 percent did not have long-term care insurance; 50 percent do not get enough exercise, and 35 percent of older adults are obese.

“By creating lifelong communities throughout the county, as our residents continue to age, we will be providing them with a foundation in which to build healthier, productive lifestyles,” said Byrd.

Carlington said the Morrow was picked to host the “walkability” workshop, because of its progress in implementing lifelong communities initiatives. One such initiative, she said, is Morrow’s Jester Creek Walking path, which is under construction, and will eventually provide a walking trail that goes throughout the city, and even cuts under Ga. Hwy. 54 (when completed).

“They are pretty advanced in their ‘Lifelong Communities’ efforts,” she said. “They have some initiatives in place that have allowed them to be further along than other cities [in the county].”

Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said the city’s economic development department has been working with the Clayton County Economic Development Department on some of the components of the city’s Lifelong Communities plan. The county economic development department has been focusing on creating a new economic center, based on genealogical research tourism, at its “Gateway Village” development in Morrow.

“We’re working with them to see how some of our initiatives may fit into Gateway Village,” Eady said.

The county announced that it will release the results reached during the workshop, at an unspecified, later date, on a county-level “Lifelong Communities” web site.