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Austin mayor plans city task force on aging

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Among many traits, Austin is known for its youthful vibe. That vibe stems partly from the fact that the city’s median age is several notches lower than the U.S. average – thanks mostly to the presence of the main campus of the University of Texas.

Yet the Brookings Institution think tank pegged the Austin metro area as having the second-fastest-growing population age 65 and over from 2000 to 2010 among all U.S. metro areas. During the same period, the Austin area boasted the country’s fastest-growing population of people age 55 to 65, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Given the graying of the Austin area, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell is forming a city task force on aging to address issues such as health care and transportation.

“As this community begins to grow rapidly, it’s clear that we must take our work to a new level to be certain that our seniors can continue to live active, healthy and independent lives,” Leffingwell said March 30 in his annual State of the City speech.

Leffingwell said he’s making a “personal commitment” to raise $50,000 to help finance the task force’s work. The task force will be made up of “the broadest possible cross-section of community stakeholders,” he said.

“Together, we’ll define the challenge and make a plan of action that doesn’t just sit on a shelf, but instead defines how we move forward,” said Leffingwell, who’s 72 years old.

The mayor, who’s running for re-election this spring, said older residents of Austin “deserve our commitment and our compassion.”

“These are our community’s grandparents – our mothers and our fathers. They have spent their lives working, raising children and, in many cases, making this city what it is. They have earned the opportunity to enjoy their golden years,” Leffingwell said.

Why are older Americans flocking to the Austin area to enjoy their golden years?

“The fact that Texas is better off economically than almost every other urbanized part of the country is part of the reason that many people are coming here,” Ryan Robinson, Austin’s city demographer, told U.S. News & World Report in 2011. “Austin has been extremely attractive for families with children who stay here, and that’s why we’re starting to see the slightly older folks.”

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