Never before have we, as a society, seen such long lifespans for such a large number of people. Never before have we, as a community, had to grapple with the opportunities and challenges presented by living in a community with so many aging family members. Living longer can be a blessing and a gift. It can be a challenge, particularly when one faces poverty, housing insecurity, disability, or isolation. Vulnerable seniors typically do not face a single difficulty, but compounded challenges. No longer able to drive, yet unfamiliar with public transportation, an older adult might put off a doctor’s appointment, or avoid grocery shopping. The high cost of medication for serious health issues might result in the non-payment of heat or phone bills. Seniors facing grave health concerns (and their families and caregivers) can struggle with nearly unmanageable costs, in terms of dollars, effort, and spirit. At the individual and family level, the challenges associated with aging—limited mobility within and outside the home, perhaps an unwanted loss of work, and fewer civic and social responsibilities—are the reality for many. Despite these challenges, and the growing number of older adults who face them, senior vulnerability and insecurity are largely ignored in many research, funding, and policy circles. One of the most unjust challenges is that not every senior will live a significantly longer life. Nationally, there are marked differences in life expectancy by race, ethnicity, gender, geography, and income. This report reveals that, here in Franklin County, there is a nearly twenty-year difference in life expectancy for seniors living in different neighborhoods. There is no more fundamental improvement that one could make in the lives of older adults than to close this gap.

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