Golden Cincinnati Initiative aims to make the city more senior-friendly

9-point plan starts with aging/accessibility czar
Golden Cincinnati Initiative aims to make the city more senior-friendly
Posted at 9:00 AM, Jan 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-15 09:00:20-05

CINCINNATI -- P.G. Sittenfeld is nowhere close to being a senior citizen. At 32, he's arguably not even halfway there.

The Cincinnati councilman does know a few, however. They raised him, they live in East Walnut Hills, and both will turn 70 this year.

Those facts and many others led him to head the Golden Cincinnati Initiative, a nine-point plan to make living in the city more friendly to its senior population.

Demographic information puts the city's over-65 population at around 12 percent, and Sittenfeld said in remarks at the initiative's unveiling Jan. 10 that in some neighborhoods that figure is as high as 20 percent -- and likely will grow as more baby boomers retire and the Midwest ages in place as expected.

Although he referenced his parents in the speech, Sittenfeld laughed when reminded of that.

"I only mentioned them to say this is something that touches all our lives," he said. "If we're not a senior today, we all aspire to be one someday. They're private people, but I will say they think it's a great idea.

"This is the community where my wife and I want to grow old together."

Chief among the initiative's nine points is the naming of an aging and accessibility czar, a person that Sittenfeld would only say would be named "in the near future." He said that it will be a position that's currently funded in another area but is now vacant.

This person "would work directly for the city manager and coordinate all of the initiative's activities across all city departments and liaison with the community," said Cincinnati director of communications Rocky Merz.

"Their job is to live, breathe, sleep and eat supporting our senior citizens," Sittenfeld said.

Cincinnati city councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, here with a senior in Winton Terrace, said that a string of inquiries from seniors last year led him to push for what became the Golden Cincinnati Initiative.

Tracey Collins, CEO of Cincinnati Area Senior Services, attended the announcement and said the initiative owes a great deal to Sittenfeld and also to the seniors with whom her organization deals.

"As a major senior agency, every major funding source has cut our senior funding," Collins said, "and with the population aging, (Sittenfeld) has just been the only one that's kind of taken this forward and said, 'What are the challenges, what can we do, how can we address them?' "

Transportation and safety are foremost on seniors' minds, Collins said.

"I've gone to our seniors and said, 'Will you write letters, will you testify?,'" she said. "We keep fighting for our funding and we keep seeing our funding go away. They've been very active and very vocal about how important services are for them and how dependent they are on these services."

All indications are that the city intends the initiative to not impact the budget, with the possible exception of $75,000 to be found to help foster the community paramedicine element of the plan.

Community paramedicine is a way for the city to better control costs associated with the high volume of emergency medical runs for seniors by augmenting training for emergency medical services responders. EMS personnel would take a greater role in assessing, for example, whether a run to an emergency department is needed or if an urgent care visit might be better -- all within a framework that would include the standard medical hierarchy.

Also on the horizon are possible partnerships with Uber, for nonmedical transportation, and with the University of Cincinnati's College of Nursing, to get more student help in working with and caring for seniors.

"Early last year, we had seniors all in a row reaching out and giving feedback on things," Sittenfeld said. "It kind of dawned on me that support for senior citizens isn't something that's going to get the focus or attention that it needed out of City Hall.

"If it weren't for getting several constituent requests for specific senior issues in a row, I'm not sure we would have gone down this path."

Golden Cincinnati Initiative

The nine points of the city's Golden Cincinnati Initiative, a plan to make the city more senior-friendly, described in five words or less (full text of each here):

  • Aging and Accessibility czar: The city's senior issues leader
  • Tax incentives: Residential building perks and more
  • Pedestrian safety: Longer crossing times at intersections
  • Zoning: Changing codes to reflect needs
  • Data: About falls and preventing them
  • Parking: Assessing the need for more
  • Community paramedicine: Addressing high-volume emergency calls
  • Code enforcement: Better addressing housing-related problems
  • State and federal lobbying: Active city advocacy for seniors