We Face Three Major Challenges
- Essentially, we face three major challenges as we approach the boomers' retirement years. Actually, I prefer to call them "opportunities."
- An opportunity to transform the nation's health-care system;
- An opportunity to strengthen our retirement income system; and
- An opportunity to create more livable communities;
- Today, I will devote my time to opportunity number 3 — Livable Communities
Significant Barriers to Spending Aging Years at Home
- Often people don't think about this until they're suddenly confronted with too many steps, hard-to-handle doorknobs, or slippery bathroom floors that can become treacherous overnight.
- Too late, many people discover that they're trapped in towns with poor public transportation. Medical centers and simple services, like grocery or drug stores, can become too hard to reach without the help of a neighbor or friend. Even walking, if there are no sidewalks, can become problematic.
What are Livable Communities?
- It might be helpful if I discuss what we mean by "livability" at this point. While all of us here have at least some familiarity with the concept, it can mean different things to different people.
- In AARP's recently released study, A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging, we define livable communities as having "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."
- To put it in simpler terms, we're talking about day-in day-out tasks and activities that are the stuff of life. Livability means visible traffic signs, handrails, one-story living and no-step entry, sidewalks you can actually walk on, bus stops with benches, libraries and parks that are easily accessible and much more.
Most Communities Now Playing Catch-Up
- When it comes to livability, most of our communities are now playing a frantic game of catch-up…and many others don't even realize what's about to hit them. This could be like the clogged artery that goes undetected until it's too late.
Elements of Livability-Housing
- First, and possibly most important, is the problem of affordability. This is of particular interest when so many real estate markets are soaring. For many people, their homes have become their nest eggs, growing almost daily, providing greater financial independence. But these same markets are also making it harder for many other people to find affordable housing.
- After affordability, next in importance is what's called "accessibility". Making a house accessible means figuring out how existing homes can be modified and how new homes should be built so that residents can operate freely and comfortably throughout their lives.
- There is an exciting trend in architecture today known as Universal Design. Some of the features of Universal Design include: No-step entryways, wider doorways, floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces, lever door handles, and easy to reach light switches and electrical outlets.