During the past decades, Youngstown’s decreasing population has resulted in an older city. Chris Davidson brings us the story of change and opportunity.
The City of Youngstown faces some major challenges in the coming years.
DAVE DAVIS: The city officials have to somehow figure out how to help these very large numbers of older folks, and do it on a declining budget.
That’s Dave Davis. He’s a YSU journalism professor, who specializes in gathering demographic and census data. His research shows that some sections of the city have about twice the population of 65 and older than the national average.
DAVIS: Those people need services. They are isolated a little bit as they get older. They may not be able to drive – at some point they won’t be able to drive. They are going to need help getting to doctor’s appointments. They are going to need help getting nutritious meals. They are going to need help getting out of the house, so they are basically not homebound.
Dave Mirkin helps the people Davis is talking about. He operates the Comfort Keepers Franchise in Youngstown.
MIRKIN: Unfortunately, the children of a lot of these seniors have had to move away to find work. So we have a large number who actually don’t have their family here to help them do things that normally family would do for them.
His organization handles non-medical home care, including companionship and light housekeeping. Mirkin didn’t want to tell us by how much his business has grown over the past few years, but did tell us his company is one of the Top 10 revenue-producing Comfort Keeper franchises in the world. It is one of nearly 700 franchises.
MIRKIN: It’s a great honor for us, but it also shows you the amount of seniors and the need in this Mahoning Valley.
On a much smaller scale, the Idora neighborhood seniors get some help from a local volunteer.
“BIG JIM” LONDON: They call me “Big Jim” London. I am the Idora Neighborhood Association president and I am the Idora 4-H advisor and I am the Idora Block Watch captain.
London recruited children from the neighborhood to join his 4-H group.
LONDON: It’s the seniors coming together with the children and showing the kids that the elderly people that you are running through their yards and you don’t care –they are a person and they have stories to tell. They were kids, too, and they are willing to talk about that stuff and help mentor the kids. That’s what that program’s about – teaching kids.
London and his 4-H group help senior citizens with yard work at discounted prices.
Dan Van Dussen, YSU Professor of Gerontology, foresees growth for businesses, both big and small, that cater to the senior population.
VAN DUSSEN: Businesses who understand the needs of the senior population and therefore can provide solutions to help then stay as independent as possible, and have opportunities for meaningful socialization, meaningful activities, meaningful connections to their populations.
Van Dussen says the city and the residents need to view the older population not as a problem but as an asset.
VAN DUSSEN: Opportunities for growth, for rebirth – because oftentimes the older adults are stable influences in those the neighborhoods. So, you can look at them almost as the roots that the rest of the neighborhood can grow and regenerate.
He says local businesses that keep senior citizens in mind will increase their odds of being successful.
For TheNewsOutlet.org, I’m Chris Davidson.
TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, The University of Akron, Cuyahoga Community College and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).