The story we hear of aging in America is often one of increasing longevity: that, on average, we can expect to live several decades longer than our great-grandparents did, thanks to improvements in healthcare and lifestyle. But this narrative ignores a stark truth: life expectancy is strongly correlated with geography. That is, you can expect a longer or shorter life, simply because of where you live.
During the next five years, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) led by its Aging and Independence Services Group will implement the Live Beyond Expectations Regional Strategic Plan 2020-2025 to support ARC’s long-range vision that all metro Atlantans should be able to lead long and healthy lives, no matter where they live. To move the plan forward, ARC will engage with stakeholders at the regional, state, and national levels to strengthen partnerships, develop new relationships, and marshal new and existing resources.
In metro Atlanta, ZIP codes tell a tale of inequity. Someone who lives in the 30339 ZIP code, which includes Sandy Springs and Vinings, can expect to live an average of 25 years longer than someone just 7 miles away in the 30314 ZIP code, which includes parts of Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood. Such discrepancies can be found within every county in the region.
While factors such as genetics, diet, and exercise play a role in determining lifespan, research suggests that the strong ties between one’s community and life expectancy are rooted in a complex mix of issues — including the economic, social, and physical conditions in the environments in which people spend their lives. These include issues like stable housing, safe neighborhoods, and access to healthy food.
About the Plan
Taking a careful, deliberate approach rooted in data and research, ARC will spend the next year developing relationships with key community partners, identifying areas of focus, and establishing methods to evaluate progress. In years two through five, the agency will work with partners to carry out strategies to address disparities related to:
- Place – Focus on locations, within each county, where residents experience the most inequity
- Policy – Change systems and structures that create inequities and advance policies that promote equity
- Practice – Provide services and programs that address unmet needs
Reducing life expectancy discrepancies is a long-range goal that ARC is uniquely positioned to take on. As the federally designated Area Agency on Aging for metro Atlanta’s 10 counties, ARC is responsible for planning, advocacy, and service delivery systems that are designed to support quality of life for older adults. In addition, the agency has a deep reserve of resources, including research and data analysis and community planning in transportation, housing, arts, and employment sectors. Finally, the agency has community partners already engaged in related work.
Working together for the long term- across our agency and across the region- we can address the region’s life disparity challenge. The ingenuity is there. So are the resources. When we work together to channel our strengths into action, then the dream of a high quality of life for all becomes achievable.
This plan is an invitation to all interested individuals and organizations to join with ARC in working to ensure that the Atlanta region is a place where people of all ages, abilities, and incomes can live high quality lives, regardless of location.