Kent Sovern wants Des Moines to be the No. 1 age-friendly city in the nation, he told a group of area business and government leaders today.


Sovern is the AARP Iowa State Director, and is one of many stakeholders leading the Des Moines Age-Friendly City initiative, which aims to make the region's infrastructure more age-friendly, work with businesses to develop an "Age-Friendly Business" certification program and improve care and services for people over the age of 50.


The region puts a lot of emphasis into making Greater Des Moines a good place for young professionals and younger families, Sovern said. He wants to make sure there's the same emphasis on making it a great place for people who are nearing retirement age or older, an increasing amount of the population.


AARP, along with Des Moines University, Aging Resources of Central Iowa and the city of Des Moines, this morning shared their findings in a recent survey and outlined steps to move forward with the initiative. About 45 people, including Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines, and representatives from the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, DART and the Healthiest State Initiative, attended the presentation.


A survey of 3,500 Greater Des Moines and Polk County residents age 50 and over found that 69 percent say they are not likely to move from the community in the next 10 years. About half are employed and 45 percent of that group say they are likely to delay retirement as long as possible. 


Officials identified three key priorities:

  • Infrastructure, which includes increasing walkability, improving public transportation options and increasing public seating in parks and open spaces.
  • Establishing an "Age-Friendly Business" certificate program with the help of business people to develop criteria for the certificate.
  • Helping aging residents maintain their independence and encouraging the placement of residential facilities near health services.

To see the full list of priorities, click here and scroll to page 3.   


Sovern said the group will present its recommendations to the Des Moines City Council for approval and begin working with business leaders and neighborhood associations to implement specific recommendations


According to the Milken Institute's Best Cities for Successful Aging Index, the Des Moines metro is the No. 6-best city for successful aging. The Milken Institute report and AARP survey show plenty of positive signs, but there's more to be done, Sovern said.