PLATTSBURGH — It pays to be age friendly.
That was the consensus from a panel of economic-development experts who gathered Thursday at Paul Smith’s College as part of a daylong educational forum on livability and the economic benefits of age-friendly communities.
The panel featured Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce; William Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors; James McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism; and Matt Simpson, chairman of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages.
“More and more people are working longer, and many retirees return to work in some way, whether out of need or because they want to,” Douglas said. “The No. 1 topic in economic development nowadays is workforce availability and finding needed skills.”
Local communities will not meet current and future workforce needs without encouraging and attracting more seniors into the workforce in various ways, which may in some cases require employers to be accommodating, Douglas added.
The tourism economy of the Adirondacks depends heavily on people 55 and older, as well, McKenna said, since they generate 25 percent of the travel market or about $387 million yearly.
He said 4.3 million people 55 and older travel to the Adirondacks every year, and 2 million of those people are 65 or older.
“That’s tourism that benefits our residents, not just the visitors,” McKenna added.
Douglas also noted that while Plattsburgh’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative was designed to attract and retain millennials, retirees who live downtown are also a huge boon.
“Each group brings life and disposable income to the downtown area,” he said. “The potential attraction of vibrant downtown life had appeal for both age groups, and we need to capitalize on that.”
The event was hosted by Mercy Care for the Adirondacks, with support from Adirondack Foundation and Eastern Adirondack Health Care Network.
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, a national philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the experience of aging.
"The conference created a very insightful and useful discussion regarding the major economic contribution of our older citizens to our region," Douglas said after the event.
"This includes the importance of their spending in our communities versus elsewhere in retirement, but also the retention of their experience both as indispensable volunteers and increasingly as returnees to the workforce in various ways.
"A balanced economy requires a balanced population."
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