Chicago Department of Public Health Releases Older Adult Health Report

August 23, 2019

Erica Duncan

CHICAGO --The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Center for Community Health Equity (CCHE) today jointly released a report describing the health status of Chicago’s older adult population. In 2016, there were more than 300,000 adults over the age of 65 living in Chicago, and this number is expected to grow. The report provides an in depth look at older adult health and well-being across a range of topics by gender, race and ethnicity.

“As Chicagoans continue to live longer, CDPH is committed to supporting aging residents to live healthy lives. We do this first by characterizing the older adult population in Chicago and identifying where health inequities exist,” said CDPH Acting Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. “We are grateful to collaborate with the Center for Community Health Equity to release this report, which offers new data that partners across Chicago can use in their work to promote the health of older adults.”

This report builds on the goals of Healthy Chicago 2.0, the city’s comprehensive plan to improve health equity. The plan provides concrete actions to help ensure that all residents, including older adults, not only have access to the services and resources they need, but also live and age well in an environment that is healthy and affirming.

“Health inequities among older adults are often ignored and even assumed to not exist. This report helps to address that gap in Chicago,” said Fernando DeMaio, Professor of Sociology at DePaul and Co-Director of the Center for Community Health Equity. “The data in this report reveal important features of the structural and social determinants of health, and serve as an important call to action to address disparities that are avoidable, unnecessary, and unfair.”

The Center for Community Health Equity is a collaboration of DePaul University and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The Center researches ways to improve health outcomes and contributes to the elimination of health inequities in Chicago.

“As a geriatrician, the report provides a glimpse into the experiences of Chicago’s older adults, a key group that makes the city such a vibrant place to live,” said Dr. Raj C. Shah, Associate Professor, Family Medicine and Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center as well as Co-Director, Center for Community Health Equity. “The Older Adult Health report provides insights to support the design of solutions that will advance healthy aging for all in Chicago.”

Highlights from the report include:

  • The older adult population in Chicago is increasing, both in terms of the overall number of older adults in the city, and the proportion they make up of the overall population.
  • Once they reach age 65, older adults in Chicago are expected to live to 84.1 years.
  • Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the three leading causes of death for older adults, regardless of gender or race/ethnicity.
  • More than one third of Chicago older adults have a disability.
  • Overall, 16% of Chicago older adults live below the Federal Poverty Level and nearly half of Chicago older adults would not be able to afford an unexpected $400 expense.
  • Older adults, regardless of gender or race/ethnicity, report a high level of neighborhood belonging.

In 2012, Chicago joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities, a group of cities and communities worldwide who are striving to better meet the needs of residents of all ages by creating inclusive and accessible urban environments. This led to the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) creating and releasing the Age-Friendly Chicago Plan in 2015.

According to the WHO, an age-friendly city like Chicago aspires to be an “inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active aging.” The WHO model is built on the premise that an age-friendly city sustains “opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.” Cities who join the network commit to a five-year cycle of planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Because of their work with Age-Friendly Chicago, DFSS understands that seniors want to age in their homes. From healthy home delivered meals to caregiver services and 21 regional and satellite senior centers, DFSS offers services that help seniors do that. In addition, a number of Age-Friendly Initiatives have been launched including: Age-Friendly Businesses; Age-Friendly Caregiver Support; and the Age-Friendly Village Interdependent Collaboratives (VICs), which uses the senior centers as a base to build volunteer support around seniors wishing to continue to live in their homes and communities as they age.