Mayor Soglin's Blog

Madison: The Best City for Successful Aging

November 18, 2014 6:14 PM

I am pleased to share that the Milken Institute has just named Madison the #1 City for Successful Aging!

The Milken report lauds Madison for, among other things, its high employment growth and low poverty rate for older adults; a low crime rate; quality health care; intellectual engagement at UW; low rates of smoking, falls and diabetes among older people; and an abundance of recreational and fitness activities. Madison is faulted for expensive living and a lack of convenient grocery stores for older adults, so we still have work to do!

The Milken Institute list doesn't just call out places with sunny climates and acres of golf courses. Instead, The Best Cities for Successful Aging researchers pore over 84 data indicators (up from 78 in 2012) in eight categories (from financial to health care to community engagement). Then they weight them on what they -- and the Milken Institute's Advisory Committee -- determine are the quality-of-life factors that matter most to Americans over 65.

To better reflect what makes a successful-aging city, this year's rankings include new data, such as the average wait time in a hospital emergency room, special needs transportation availability, the number of local movie theaters, the cost of adult day care and the rate of both falls and obesity rates of residents 65 and older.

You may or may not know that the motto of the Madison Senior Center is "PROMOTING SUCCESSFUL AGING.",

'Successful Aging' is a strategy developed by John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D. in their 1998 book, Successful Aging., It reviews 10 years of research from the MacArthur Study, under their leadership, which created a network of leading research from key fields to identify factors that preserve and enhance mental and physical vitality in later life. They offer three keys to successful aging;
1. Avoid disease and disability (eg. get a flu shot and toss slippery throw rugs)
2. Maintain high cognitive and physical function (eg. exercise regularly and continue to stretch your mind)
3. Engagement with LIFE (eg. find friends, be social, find ways to serve)

The City of Madison commits about $650,000 annually to support case management (identifying appropriate services and programs) to older people and their families, local senior activities, a volunteer home chore program, a cultural diversity program for Latino and African-American senior adults, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Kajsiab House (well being services) for Southeast Asian elders, and LGBT Senior Advocacy.

The City of Madison also has created a nationally and state accredited Madison Senior Center, which offers learning opportunities, computer instruction, dance and exercise, support groups, health screenings and wellness programs, meals and nutrition programs, music and entertainment, intergenerational programs, and leadership opportunities. The City provides the building at 330 West Mifflin Street and core staff, while contributors raise funds for programs and activities.

While there are many facets that went into this incredible ranking, I want to again express, my appreciation to the Senior Center management, staff and hundreds of volunteers for their efforts to enrich the lives of thousands of seniors.,

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