It was a feather in Colorado Springs' cap when, back in March, the city received the designation of "Age Friendly" - even if it did elicit some chuckles.

Mayor John Suthers quipped as he accepted a plaque from AARP that "all you need to do is look at your mayor and council to see" how fitting the sobriquet. But the serious side of this honor, and duty, is that our city respect and afford fair treatment to its seniors. And I'm proud to see that a number of local businesses have taken the lead in this effort.

In conjunction with the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and the Innovations in Aging Collaborative, these eight businesses are piloting local Age-friendly Certification: Accelerated Wealth; the Behr & Behr Team of Platinum Group Realtors; C&C Sand and Stone; Colorado Living; Number 1 Son Home Maintenance LLC; Phoenix Strategies; Prestige Dental; and Silver Key Senior Services.

What constitutes the certification? Ensuring a good physical environment, knowledgeable personnel, marketing and customer experience for seniors.

Even though there is plenty of information in the media about how the U.S. population is graying, I suspect there still are many people for whom aging issues are just not on their radar. Otherwise caring and alert younger adults can find themselves in a bubble on this issue; at least, until their parents or grandparents turn 65 or simply slow down.

That is why a communitywide approach is so beneficial. It leads to awareness of aging issues before a personal crisis hits, inside of being blindsided.

So many aspects of community are affected by a growing elderly population, such as the need for affordable and modified housing; convenient public transportation; and increased demand for volunteerism. In many cities, families who suddenly have a member who is no longer able to live independently find access to services very limited. In the Springs, the Age Friendly movement will bolster that access.

Kim Adler, regional VP for AARP, told The Gazette that the number of 65-and-older residents of the Pikes Peak region will more than double by 2040, to about 176,000.

The Pikes Peak region had 68,000 people older than 65 in 2010. By 2040, that number is expected to hit 176,000, said Kim Adler, regional vice president of AARP's west region. So it only makes sense that businesses and service providers adopt a mindset that accommodates aging, rather than diminishing or marginalizing older residents.

The best part of this initiative is, if done right, the region's elderly population will be drawn more into the mainstream, and younger people will come to understand just how much seniors in return can contribute to the community, in ideas and enthusiasm.

This week, there will be an opportunity to jump right in and learn more. A free community celebration of the Age-Friendly City designation will be held from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at Acacia Park, 115 E. Platte Ave. The public will be able to meet elected officials and business and nonprofit leaders working on age-friendly programs, as well as view exhibits on housing, mobility, safety and civic engagement.

Bringing Colorado Springs-area residents together, regardless of age, only makes us stronger.


Send Gazette Business Editor Ted Rayburn your ideas on business and the southern Colorado economy at 719-636-0194 or [email protected]