We know the Pittsburgh region is home to one of the oldest populations in America.
But how age-friendly is it?
A panel of experts and local leaders considered that question Tuesday at a Downtown conference sponsored by Presbyterian SeniorCare, which operates local nursing homes and other senior living residences.
There are models emerging in other cities, such as a program in Queens, N.Y., that offers a virtual senior center online so homebound seniors can participate in social activities.
The technology is there, too, for distant relatives to check in on elderly loved ones via a webcam. But they can do more than chat.
There's software that can check for vital signs remotely and whether a person has taken his or her medications that day. And computer games a senior citizen can play are not only entertaining, but also alert clinical staff of emerging problems with a person's cognition or manual dexterity.
But considering the money for high-tech solutions is not always readily available, the panelists suggested more immediate alternatives to enhance seniors' lives.
It could be as simple as building sidewalks so seniors can safely take walks, suggested Washington County Commissioner J. Bracken Burns, or making public transit more accessible.
"We need a to-do list," said Mr. Burns. "What should a community look like that is age-sensitive?"
Part of the answer is shedding our "perception about age that is antiquated," said keynote speaker Larry Minnix Jr., president and CEO of the American Association of Homes & Services for the Aging in Washington, D.C.
Seniors are, in fact, both an economic and political force, he said, noting that major advertisers such as Coca-Cola and AT&T have begun targeting older audiences.
In Pittsburgh, 16.4 percent of the population was 65 years old or older in the last census, compared with 12.4 percent nationally.
We should view seniors "not as consumers of services, but as assets to the community," said James Denova, vice president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
James S. Broadhurst, chairman of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, said his company had recognized that, noting that seniors represent 30 percent of its restaurant business and about 10 percent of its work force of Eat'n Park's 1,000 employees.
"That is a segment of our business that we're actually going after," he said.
Steve Twedt: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1963.