The population of older Virginia is projected to double to 1.8 million people by 2030. To prepare for this aging demographic, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), in coordination with the Blueprint for Livable Communities Citizen Advisory Group, created this long-term, cohesive plan for livable communities. They define a “livable community” as one that is “designed and functions in a way that facilitates well-being for all of the people who live there, regardless of age, income, or ability. It is a holistic goal that is achieved through a long-term, open-ended, community planning process” (see www.vadrs.org/vblc).
The Blueprint lays out two overarching goals for any plan to make a community more livable: First, alter community design features to make living environments more accessible so individuals are better positioned to integrate into the community. Second, expand and improve the ability of in-home and community-based services to meet growing needs in the population. Any size group that wants to improve their community can use the Blueprint, from one person trying to get a bus stop to an entire region addressing zoning laws.
Other aspects of the Blueprint include:
- A wealth of information about local efforts across Virginia as examples for planning frameworks, toolkits, partnerships, and outlier concepts like the “Virtual Village” and Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) concepts (first developed in Boston (page 22-23), now in implementation in Reston, Alexandria, Clifton, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and Richmond.
- The urgent implications of 16.1 percent of older Virginians living in poverty as of 2011, double the percentage from five years earlier. This, coupled with an explosion of older adults, “will place great strains on the public service delivery system that provides older adults and their family members with needed care and support” (page 10). The Blueprint provides proactive solutions, such as Housing Choice Vouchers (page 51) and Community Living Supports (page 16).
Overviews of regional plans, sustainable community grant programs, state initiatives and neighborhood models that are being implemented with some success.
Compared to most state plans on aging, this Blueprint provides more specific ideas and actions for community planners and local government. Importantly, it is full of ideas that don’t rely exclusively on government funding or action.
How to Use
This Blueprint serves as an excellent resource and guide not only for communities in Virginia, but around the country, who want to learn best practices, key strategies and tactics, and gain a better understanding of the issues facing communities with older populations. Virginia has been on the forefront in the U.S. in coordinating resources for livable communities. This document, and the accompanying website, are rich resources for local planners anywhere.
View full report: Virginia's Blueprint for Livable Communities – 2011 (PDF – 808 KB)