"Aging in Place": Report Considers How To Make Better Communities for Seniors

Dave Garlock, 1000 Friends Communication Intern

As America's and Oregon's population ages, the challenge of meeting seniors' needs for their communities and homes is of increasing concern to planners and policymakers. One recent study, however, suggests that we should begin by reinvesting in transportation and housing in the places where seniors (and future seniors) already live. Moreover, the results will look remarkably similar to the communities younger Americans also prefer.

The AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Conference of State Legislatures recently released a research report, Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices. It discusses how states can make it easier for older adults to continue living in their homes by adopting proactive and innovative land use, transportation and housing policies.

The number of American adults age 65 and older will nearly double over the next 20 years.  Of these, more than 90% want to continue living in their own residences as long as possible, the report notes. “Aging in Place,” as this trend is known, has been found to improve health, life satisfaction and self-esteem among seniors.  However, many American communities have significant barriers to aging in place, including lack of access to transportation, auto-oriented land use and lack of affordable housing with access to services.

States and communities can make aging in place easier, the report states, by adopting policies that encourage communities to create “affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.”

An example of how states can create livable communities is by integrating land use and transportation planning, and creating mixed-use neighborhoods that are conducive to easy transit, pedestrian and bike access. Added transportation choices make goods and services more accessible to older adults, improving their health and lowering their transportation costs.

Remarkably, these recommendations closely mirror the preferences and interests of many in the millennial generation, as has been described in a number of recent reports, including the Urban Land Institute’s What’s Next report. Furthermore, the kinds of communities that seniors increasingly prefer are also more likely to help us meet our goals for reducing our environmental impact while fostering local economies and limiting development’s impacts on farmland.

Several states’ innovative policies are described in the “Aging in Place” report, including Oregon’s. Ultimately, it’s clear that the solutions that will help seniors age in place are considerably cheaper than the alternatives, and will actually save seniors and taxpayers money by making transportation and services more efficient, while lowering overall healthcare expenditures.  Policies that promote aging in place are “a prudent way to help ensure our communities are livable throughout the lifespan,” the report concludes.

For more information and to read the report, visit this page from NCSL.

For more information on how 1000 Friends promotes what we call “Cool Communities” here in Oregon, click here.