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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Healthy Aging Program for Older Adults

Updated on June 19, 2013
Growing older doesn't mean you can't have good health and happiness.
Growing older doesn't mean you can't have good health and happiness. | Source

Common Environmental Hazards Affecting Health of Older Adults

Climate change
 
Lead
 
Ozone
 
Mercury
 
Particulate Matter
 
Pesticides
 
Temperature Extremes
 
Water contaminants
 
The EPA lists this hazards as those most particularly likely to affect the health of older adults.

Why Is an Aging Initiative Important?

The population of the United States is graying at a quickening pace. According to the EPA, in 2011, 13 percent of the population was age 65 or older; by 2030 that number is expected to grow to a full 20 percent of the population and remain steady at least through 2050.

The fastest growing age group are those people age 85 and over.

The demographics of American society have already begun to shift and more change is to come as the largest single generation of Americans, the baby boomer generation, grows older.

This shift in the increasing numbers of older adults presents new challenges to a culture based largely on youth. More older adults are remaining in the work place, or returning to work after retirement. More seniors want to live out their lifespans in their own homes, referred to as aging in place.

An aging population will have needs very different than their younger cohorts. Reliable and safe transportation will be a concern, as will access to important community services. The incidence of chronic illness increases with age, meaning there will be more people requiring more services from medical and health professionals and facilities.

These basic needs and services represent only the tip of the iceberg in what changes and challenges lie ahead. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already begun planning to meet these needs in the future and instituted the Aging Initiative in 2002.

The EPA, whose responsibility it is to protect the natural environment and human health chose to focus on the environment and older adults due to the changing demographics of the nation, the increased susceptibility of an older population to environmental hazards and a population with a potential for lifelong exposure to contaminants that could remain in their bodies.


Stereotypes of What Older People Ought to Be Hold Us Back

National Agenda for the Environment and the Aging

The National Agenda for the Environment and the Aging was developed with participation of the public, health professionals and professionals in the area of aging. In the spring of 2003 a series of public meetings were held in various states around the nation. It was from these meetings that goals were developed:

  • Identify research gaps in environmental health
  • Translate research findings into prevention strategies for public health
  • Assess the impact an aging society will have on the environment
  • Create opportunities for older adults to volunteer within their communities to reduce and prevent environmental hazards.

You can join the EPA Listserver to receive news and information about this National Agenda and to learn how you can participate and benefit from it.

The Aging-Friendly Agenda Part 1

The Aging-Friendly Agenda Part 2

How You Can Get Involved in Your Community

Volunteers are needed now in communities throughout the United States. The more people know and understand about the impact various environmental contaminants could affect them and other community members, the more likely they are to participate in the actions and efforts to control such contaminants.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has a website for recruitment of volunteers needed in various communities. In addition, you might want to contact your local volunteer agency, the Aging Network's Volunteer Collaborative or the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Much work needs to be done in an ongoing effort to make the environment as safe and healthy as possible for all people. If you're interested in becoming involved, but are unable to find any projects ongoing in your area, contact your local Area Office on Aging for information.

Many governmental and private agencies and businesses are working toward making aging in place a reality for more older adults.
Many governmental and private agencies and businesses are working toward making aging in place a reality for more older adults. | Source

Private Sector Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults

Civic Ventures is a not-for-profit think tank for baby boomers and their elders. The agency publishes Encore, a publication dedicated to helping older adults match up skills, knowledge and desire with opportunities for both volunteer and paid work.

Experience Corps is a volunteer program via the AARP.

The Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement has organizations in every state and in 20 foreign countries.

Generations United

Older adults can and do remain active in their communities long after retirement age.
Older adults can and do remain active in their communities long after retirement age. | Source

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    • iWilliams311 profile image

      Imani Williams 

      4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thanks so much for writing about this topic. I think more and more Americans prefer to stay in their own homes as they age and dread being shipped to some far away nursing home. The issues/needs you mentioned here are very important and I know there are a lot of families there now struggling with the same issues. We can't just rely on government, though, for solutions. We need to have a plan and talk to our families on how we can deal with the financial and emotional consequences of aging and long-term care.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      This is very important and useful information for my age group. Grateful for the attention of the EPA, and willing volunteers. Will check for volunteer opportunities. Thanks.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Denise, you are so right. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to the issues that arise as both the ones we love and ourselves grow older.

      As aging in place becomes even more popular than it is now, communities are going to be challenged to provide the necessary services. As always, there are unique challenges for those who live in rural and outlying areas compared to city and suburban dwellers.

      On top of all the practical challenges are the emotional ones. I wish you the best of success in navigating the maze of situations that may lie ahead.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      These challenges are becoming more a part of my own life, now that my parents and in-laws are reaching and passing their 80 year birthdays. My father recently made the decision to stay in his own home in spite of protests from my mother and siblings. There are many factors to consider when faced with these types of decisions, and it is difficult to have someone move to be closer to services when they want to remain in their own environment. The hazards and risks are many, and there are no easy answers.

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