In last week’s Senior Lookout column, I described the actions taken by the Age & Dementia Friendly Cape Ann (ADFCA) initiative. This week, I would like to discuss the community needs assessment findings.

The population of Cape Ann in 2016 was approximately 46,000. Of the four communities, Gloucester is the largest, with a population of 29,546, followed by Rockport at 7,167, Manchester-by-the-Sea with 5,321 and Essex with an estimated 3,632 residents. Of those residents, nearly 1 in 3 is age 60 or older.

Most homes on Cape Ann are owner-occupied by year-round residents. A majority of homeowners on Cape Ann are older adults, with nearly 53% of homeowners age 60 or older. We are living longer and in many cases experiencing longer retirements than any previous generation. Growth in the region’s older adult population is expected to continue, with projections suggesting that older adults will represent more than 40% of the region’s population by 2030. In Rockport, that statistic will be even more dramatic, with nearly 50% of residents projected to be age 60-plus.

The ADFCA community assessment process brought to light five themes that thread through the ADFCA’s 10 areas of focus. These themes cross-cut many of the needs identified for Cape Ann and were used to guide the development and implementation of the ADFCA action plan. The full ADFCA community assessment report is available for review online at www.adfca.org.

Reinforcing a regional approach. The four communities of Cape Ann are already linked by geography and existing regional operations. From transportation to health resources, arts institutions to veteran’s services, residents of Cape Ann are already connected in many ways. Fostering a more age- and dementia-friendly Cape Ann will be bolstered by finding ways for the four communities to work together to make improvements across sectors and municipalities.

Education. Raising awareness and a deeper understanding of aging, ageism and dementia is a key component to making our communities more age- and dementia-friendly. It is also critical that individuals be informed and prepared for their own changing needs as they age.

Intergenerational connections. It has been said that a community that works well for older adults and for children works well for everyone. Intergenerational programming and education can help develop a culture of respect that cuts across age, decreases barriers between generations, addresses the desire of older adults to age in place, and allows communities to tap into the talents and energy of older residents.

Caregiving. The ADFCA community assessment process indicated the needs of caregivers to be high in our community. By its nature, caregiving touches on all aspects of community life. ADFCA will direct special attention to the needs of caregivers in all of our areas of focus.

Veterans. A significant proportion of older adults are veterans or spouses of veterans. While the needs of older adult veterans are similar to the needs of older adults as a whole, the barriers and resources available can be unique. ADFCA will ensure that veterans remain a part of the conversation in each area of focus.

In next week’s Senior Lookout column, I will review the steps to be taken outlined in the ADFCA action plan.

For more information about the Age & Dementia Friendly Cape Ann initiative, visit the website at www.adfca.org. If you are interested in joining in this effort, contact initiative coordinator Carrie Johnson at 978-281-1750.

The ADFCA community needs assessment was funded by a grant from the North Shore Community Health Network. Major support for the ADFCA initiative is provided by a grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation.

Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging.