Ecumen Joining City of Apple Valley In Design Workshop Focused on Making Aging Advantageous to Cities

How does a city actually become “age friendly” to create competitive advantage amidst unprecedented demographic change?

Answers will come in a unique three-day work workshop September 30th to October 2nd in Apple Valley, Minnesota, which like most American communities is grappling with these very questions as their populations grow older in record numbers.  Local, national and global experts from diverse sectors will create a roadmap for Apple Valley and cities globally that desire to turn “Age Friendly Community” from a phrase into a reality.

The workshop will be convened by Vitalocity! – a new consultancy founded by a group involving Ecumen , Kendal Corporation a Pennsylvania-based senior services nonprofit company, and BusinessLab, a UK-based global strategy consultancy. From September 30 through October 2, these founding partners will be joined by Apple Valley residents and community leaders along with representatives from global organizations such as the International Federation on Ageing, a World Health Organization  (WHO) partner; Perkins Eastman, an international architectural and design firm; Sodexo, which provides nutritional and other quality of life services to more than 75 million consumers worldwide and global technology company, IBM.

The Problem:  Our Cities Aren’t Designed for Aging

In today’s cities, if you’re not spry and mobile, you’re largely out of luck. This isolates people, limits their contributions to a city’s social and economic vitality, and can have significant health impacts. 

Exploring this phenomenon in depth, WHO created the WHO Age Friendly City Framework, which provides eight characteristics (below) necessary for an age friendly city.  The Framework is a critically important step in creating cities for all ages and stages, and more than 250 cities have subscribed to its tenets.  But no entity exists globally that cities can turn to for cohesive planning and technical advice to turn the Framework into results. 

Vitalocity! seeks to change that by bringing diverse skills and expertise together to help cities deliver phased, measurable, quantifiable results  based on the eight components (below) of the WHO’s Age Friendly City Framework:

  • Respect and social inclusion
  • Outdoor spaces and buildings
  • Transportation
  • Communications and information
  • Social participation
  • Housing
  • Community support and health
  • Civic participation and employment

Our Cities’ Changing Population Driving Age-Friendly Strategy

For the first time in history, more than half of the human population - 3.3 billion people - live in cities.  By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion.  And this population is getting older.  For example, in the last 10 years, in every one of America’s 51 largest major metropolitan areas, the number of children relative to the number of elderly has declined.  In Pittsburgh, which is America’s oldest city demographically, almost 25% of the metro area’s population is over 60. 

Locations long considered magnets for the young and hip are also aging rapidly.  In Manhattan and San Francisco, almost 20% of the population is over 60, well above the national average.

According to a new report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP, in 1990, less than 5 percent of U.S. counties had a population where adults over 50 made up more than 40 percent of the community (that was 156 counties). By 2010, this was true of 33 percent of all U.S. counties (or 1,031 of them).  The U.S. population over age 65 is expected to include 73 million people by 2030 (that's about 33 million more than today).

And most of these people live in metropolitan areas, particularly suburbs, making Apple Valley an ideal location to launch this important work and turn age friendly design in our world from concept to reality.

Ecumen Century Club: Honoring the Always Positive Pearl Nelson, 103

Pearl Shoquist Nelson, a resident at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes in Chicago City, turns 103 today.  She might celebrate a little, but mostly it will be like any other day.  You can bet she will be busy all day. She will do her word games and write in her journal.  She will read her daily devotional.  She will exercise.  She might crochet.  And she will surely take time to be thankful.

“There’s always something good,” says Pearl.

Her friend Pat Achman sums Pearl up this way: “She’s never cranky.  She’s always steady.  She never says anything negative about people.  Never a cross word.”

And consequently, Pearl has many friends, which is fortunate because she has no family.  She was orphaned when she was eight years old and had no siblings.  She married Elmer Nelson when she was 23, and he died when she was 71— 32 years ago.  They had no children.  But she does not dwell on the absence of family.

“The Lord made up for that,” Pearl says.  “There have been so many wonderful people in my life who have been so good to me. I’ve had a good life.  I’ve made the best of it.”

Pearl is a devout Lutheran.  About the only time she turns on her television is on Sunday morning, when she faithfully watches evangelist Charles Stanley, who happens to be a Baptist.  “I like him,” Pearl says with a wry smile, “because I can hear him.”

Pearl was born in Clinton, Minn., and grew up near Shafer, Minn. She was raised by her maternal grandparents. When she finished the eighth grade, she had to go to work — at first doing “odds and ends.”  Later she got a job as a telephone operator first in Center City, then in Lindstrom.  That job went away when the telephone company converted to the dial system, and she moved on to a job at the Lindstrom hospital, working in the central supply department. 

When she stopped working, she started volunteering — at the hospital where she used to work and at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, when Elmer’s mother lived there.  In addition to being a selfless volunteer over the years, she also is a generous donor to Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, designating her regular donations to the memory care community.

“Pearl’s generous gifts over the years have made a huge difference in improving the quality of care at Parmly,” says Ecumen Development Director Amy Williams. “She is a very caring person who is committed to helping others.”

Pearl says she’s not sure about the secret of her longevity.  Clearly, she points out, it’s not genetic.  “Maybe it’s that I didn’t drink, and I didn’t smoke — never,” she says.  “But I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.”

Or maybe it has something to do with finding the good in everything and caring deeply about the welfare of other people.  Whatever it is, Ecumen honors you, Pearl Nelson.  Happy 103rd birthday!

Ecumen Century Club: Happy 100th Birthday Olanda Merhar

Ecumen honors Olanda Merhar, a resident of Grand Village in Grand Rapids, Minn., who is 100 today.

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Ecumen Blogger Jim Klobuchar — The Trail Less Traveled

No matter how old you are, there is always something to learn.  For Jim Klobuchar, travel fills a deep need to connect with the world at large, and this time he's headed back to the soul-stirring Himalayas -- remembering another time and other lessons learned.

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Media Around Minnesota Discuss Ecumen Scholars Nursing Program

Twin Cities Business Magazine, WJON-AM, Prairie Business Magazine, Duluth News Tribune and  Worthington Daily Globe look at Ecumen Scholars program that's funded with $1.9 million grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and features partnership with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).  Additional information and media here.

Last Week's Top 5 Blog Posts - September 2

In case you missed out on the latest Changing Aging news, here are the blog posts our online visitors found most interesting last week, including: Best Place to Work, Ecumen Awakenings, Cleveland Clinic Approval. Happy 101st Birthday and Thrifty White Pharmacy.

Follow the links below to read these great stories:

Ecumen Named One of Minnesota's Best Workplaces for Ninth Time by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

National Senior Living Publication Highlights the Ecumen Awakenings Program

Plans Approved for Ecumen-Managed Senior Living Community Near Cleveland Clinic in Avon, Ohio

Ecumen Century Club: Happy 101st Birthday Lorna Smith

Ecumen Century Club: Happy 101st Birthday Viola Miller

To read more Changing Aging blog posts or to learn more about Ecumen, please visit!

Ecumen Century Club: Happy 104th Birthday Betty Sampson

Ecumen honors Betty Sampson, a resident of Ecumen Evergreens of Fargo, who turns 104 today.

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Ecumen Century Club: Happy 101st Birthday Lorna Smith

Ecumen honors Lorna Smith, who is 101 today.

Born: August 28, 1913, in Boyceville, Wisc.  Lived as a child and young adult in Clayton, Wisc., but lived most of her adult life in Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Residence: Seasons at Maplewood in Maplewood, Minn.                           

Hobbies/Interests: Reading — especially history, biographies, mysteries and thrillers.  Also, loves following golf and other sports.

Occupation: Worked in retail as a buyer at a sporting goods company, as an administrative assistant at an office machine manufacturer and as a copy editor at West Publishing.

Secrets of Longevity: “No secret other than having the right attitude. I never thought of myself as old or thought that I would be old.  I have a very active, curious mind, many interests, wonderful friends and a very supportive family.  I am a truly fortunate person.” 

Interesting Facts: Lorna still drives, and she just recently bought a new car.

Congratulations on your 101st birthday, Lorna! Ecumen honors you.