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No Place Like Home: AARP's View on Livable Communities

  • Another important trend in making housing more accessible is called "visitability." The term means making a home accessible for visitors who might have special needs. It's about creating a home where the welcome mat truly welcomes everyone.
  • What Some Are Already Doing

    • In Vermont, there is a Home Accessibility Program that helps pay for home modifications for disabled persons. But beyond that, Vermont has a Visitability Law, making it the first state to mandate accessibility requirements for new 1-to-3 bedroom housing.
    • The state of Georgia has an EasyLiving Home Program, which AARP had a hand in developing. It is a certification program that encourages builders to design single-family homes and town homes with "easy living" features - for example, one stepless entrance into the house; wide doorways; at least one accessible toilet on the main floor.

    Elements of Livability - Transportation

    • Transportation is another livability challenge that is getting less attention than it should. The 1991 passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act - or ISTEA, as it's known-was a positive step. For the first time, citizens were empowered to make decisions about local transportation funding participation, with environmental impact and other community concerns finally given due consideration.
    • And hopefully, we'll soon get a new transportation bill out of Congress that acknowledges the livability challenge and takes some steps to address the mobility needs of older Americans.
    • Still, transportation policy remains focused overwhelmingly on the construction and maintenance of roads to accommodate the automobile. And once again, that policy is a response to social behavior. But if we don't start expanding our transportation vision to include buses, rail, walkability, bicycles and more…what's going to happen when millions of baby boomers begin outliving their ability to drive by a decade or more?
    • We need huge investments in our mass transit infrastructure. In the Beyond 50 livable communities report AARP released recently, 60 percent of seniors reported that there was no public transportation within a 10-minute walk from their homes. Suburbs and rural areas are especially underserved.
    • Public transportation shouldn't just be a last resort for older people who can no longer get behind the wheel safely. Public transportation should be so prevalent and accessible in the community people of all ages use it throughout their lives.

    What Some are Already Doing

    • In Missouri, the Older Adults Transportation Service (or OATS) provides door-to-door car service at no cost to the elderly and disadvantaged. OATS is an ambitious program, with hundreds of employees and a strong volunteer network serving 87 counties across more than 50,000 square miles. Its fleet of more than 600 vehicles made 1.6 million one-way trips last year.
    • In the Washington,DC area, there's Friendship Heights, Maryland, a small village where half the residents are over 50. They have a bus that takes residents to and from stores and the medical building.

    Elements of Livability - Mobility

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