Portland Ranks in Top Quarter for Cities to Age in
August 16, 2012 -- A survey ranking 100 large metropolitan areas released two weeks ago has listed Portland in the top quartile of best cities for aging – but just barely.
Portland ranks number 24 in the Milken Institute's Best Cities for Aging Survey, based on criteria including the number of hospitals with Alzheimer's units, the number of senior care facilities and
YMCAs, as well as healthcare indicators such as the number of orthopedic surgeons and the number of mental health facilities, as well as the percentage of hospitals with medical school affiliations.
Provo, Utah ranked number one among large metro areas; Salt Lake City was the only other western city to crack the top 10. The survey ranked cities on a 100-point scale in eight categories (including healthcare, wellness, employment and transportation), with Portland scoring in the 60s and 70s in each category.
“I can't say having a high number of hospitals necessarily means that people are healthier,” said Bandana Shretha, the director of community engagement for AARP Oregon. She was surprised to see Portland didn't do better in the survey's rankings, but also added that some of the criteria may not apply to Oregon's way of handling long-term care.
Oregon's system focuses on keeping seniors in community-based settings with in-home care assistants, or home health aides and there are fewer skilled nursing facilities than in many states.
“In Oregon, we're proud to have that range of options,” Shretha said. AARP surveys – which were cited in the Milken Institute report – said 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their homes for as long as they can.
Portland was one of just two U.S. cities identified by the World Health Organization as one of its six worldwide Age-Friendly Cities. The WHO has collaborated with Portland State University's
Institute on Aging to identify traits of age-friendly cities. They include consistent, affordable public transportation; ample green spaces; events held at times convenient for older people; respect and social inclusion; and accessible health and social services.
While Oregon's system for senior care emphasizes aging in place, and Portland has better infrastructure for older people than many cities, finding funds for services for seniors and people with disabilities is still a challenge, Shretha said.
“A lot of our advocates have worked very hard to prevent huge cuts,” Shretha said. “I can say the budget scenario is tenuous.”
Shretha also said the study's focus on cities may skew its findings somewhat. While cities have more access to amenities like transportation, smaller communities have their advantages as well.
“In some cases, rural places might be more connected,” Shretha said.
The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that “believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges and improve lives.” A spokesperson for the
Institute declined to comment for this story.
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