Silver Tsunami (Part 2): Maple Grove’s “Age-Friendly” Initiative
Minnesota’s age 65-plus population is expected to eclipse the 5-to-17 age group for the first time in history. And as demographics shift, more cities like Maple Grove are implementing policies to become more age-friendly.
“When We Moved Here, It Was All Young People”
Anne Marie and Jim Seward have deep roots in Maple Grove. The 60-somethings do not have to venture up North to find peace and relaxation. Their home, located off Rice Lake, is a cabin-like retreat among the bustling suburb. The Sewards raised three boys and created a lot of memories in the home. However, the city looks a lot different from when they first moved in some 35-plus years ago.
“When we moved here, it was all young people,” said Jim. “Everybody was young and all of the sudden, within years, they start talking about 55 and older.”
Both Jim and Anne Marie are very active, but they’ve had to make lifestyle changes over the years.
“You have to accept the fact that you can’t do it like you use to,” said Anne Marie. “Perfect example, we just redid the back wall on one side of the house. So Jim had put it all in himself over 30 years ago, but we realized there’s no way, he could do all the repair and replacement, he couldn’t do that anymore.”
The couple prepared ahead of time, purchasing long-term care insurance so they can be cared for in their home when they get older.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t burden our children with anything,” said Anne Marie.
Maple Grove’s “Age-Friendly” Initiative
The Sewards are among the rapidly growing 55-plus crowd who call Maple Grove home. In fact, about a quarter of the population consists of seniors. In 2016, the city joined the AARP network of “age-friendly” communities. Maple Grove is one of four cities in the state that are part of the network.
“Cities are taking it upon themselves to figure out ways to involve older adults in planning processes, in figuring out how to make their communities great places to age,” said Will Phillips, director of AARP Minnesota.
The Maple Grove age-friendly initiative started about four years ago. Officials conducted a citywide assessment and just recently completed a three-year action plan.
The initiative focuses on everything from access to health care and civic engagement to parks and green spaces, and transportation needs. For example, the city recently upgraded the My Ride bus service. A new app and online option makes it easier for people summon a ride to get to doctor appointments or go shopping.
Trying to Increase Affordability
Maple Grove is also helping mature adults stay socially connected. The city recently gave computer tablets to residents at Arbor Lakes Commons and Woodland Mound senior apartments. The city also provides internet service for $20 per month.
Housing is also part of the plan. The city is looking at several different areas, including affordability and availability. Currently, there are more than five senior living facilities in the city, including Woodland Mounds and Arbor Lakes Commons.
“Most of them do not follow the guidelines for affordable housing, they are higher rents,” explained senior coordinator Kris Orluck.
The other part of the puzzle includes helping people like Anne Marie and Jim Seward, who love their community and the lives they have built over the decades and want to stay in their home and live independently for as long as they can.
“I’m not ready to leave yet,” said Anne Marie.