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updated: 8/7/2014 9:49 AM

Naperville considers forming commission for seniors

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Already recognized by one magazine as the best city in the country for early retirees, Naperville might soon take another step to be more senior-friendly by creating a commission specifically for older residents.

The commission would aim to improve access to services for seniors and increase communication among agencies that provide such services, said Bev Patterson Frier, a retired business owner who is supporting the push.

"Working together will bring the best possible services to our seniors," Frier said.

City council members are expected to receive information about the proposed senior commission before their next meeting Aug. 19, after Councilman Paul Hinterlong asked staff members in June to research the idea and provide a report.

A memo from Amy Emery in the city manager's office said the city historically has played a limited role as a direct social service provider to seniors or any segment of the population.

But the city recently redesigned its senior resources webpage to provide a better list of groups that assist older adults. The page provides information on topics including senior care, elder rights, emergency preparedness, household maintenance, utility assistance and volunteering.

While staff members have yet to recommend whether a senior commission should be created, Emery's memo said the senior population in Naperville is growing.

As of the 2010 census, there were 12,000 people older than 65 living in Naperville, representing nearly 9 percent of the city's population. Ten years earlier, census figures showed there were 7,991 residents older than 65, which made up 6 percent of Naperville's population at the time.

The proposed commission would include senior citizens living in town as well as representatives of Naperville police, Naperville Township, Edward Hospital, Loaves & Fishes Community Services, DuPage Senior Citizens Council and Metropolitan Family Services. Some residents younger than 55 would be included on the commission's board to ensure continuity

Operating under the commission would be committees to focus on education, health, housing, transportation and collaboration among service providers, Frier said. The collaboration aspect is key, she said, because senior services now are "very fragmented."

Frier said she has heard concerns about the cost of creating a senior commission. But she said it likely would not take much city money to form the group, and a small amount of spending could be justified to serve seniors and connect organizations already providing senior assistance.

"Wouldn't you think that since the seniors pay taxes for the schools, the city could afford to give them more attention and assistance?" Frier said.

Naperville was listed last November as the top U.S. city for early retirement by Kiplinger magazine, and made Forbes Magazine's 2014 list of the top 25 American suburbs for retirement. But Frier said Naperville can do more to truly be a "senior-friendly city."

"We must live up to that reputation," Frier said. "But we have a lot of work to do to justify that title."

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