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Livable Communities: A Show and Tell

Walkability, places to gather, outdoor spaces: These features and more make a city, town or neighborhood a livable place for being 50-plus — or any age

Livable Places, For All Ages

What makes a community livable? The specifics vary, but the common features usually involve a place that’s safe, has usable outdoor spaces, provides opportunities for work and play and includes needed services and effective ways to get around, no matter a person's age or life stage. 

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A Town Center

The original downtown in Suwanee, Ga., was historic, but it was small and off the beaten path. The city's still new, built-from-scratch town center is now a gathering place for people of all ages. In addition to shops and eateries there's an amphitheater and a splash fountain for kids.

Photo courtesy city of Suwanee, Ga.

Sidewalks and Streetlights

When done right, sidewalks can be destinations, such as in Charlottesville, Va., where the wide sidewalks on E. Main Street provide room enough for outdoor dining as well as passersby. Street-level light fixtures illuminate the area after dark, and trees and umbrellas supply shade on sunny days.

Photo by David Goodman

People Power

A street with no cars! Such pedestrian-only byways are rare. So rare that in many communities the only safe place to go for a walk is inside a shopping mall. This outdoor mall on Church Street in downtown Burlington, Vt., is a “totally hopping place, even in cold weather,” says a resident.

Photo by Max Truman

Follow the Red Brick Road

Brick crosswalks at the busy intersection of Elm and East Broad streets in downtown Westfield, N.J., provide clear indicators of where drivers should stop and pedestrians should (ideally) walk to more safely cross the road.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

Safe Passage

Until recently, getting from a bus stop on Manchaca Road in South Austin, Texas, to the senior activity center across the way required fast footwork and nerves of steel. (Check out the video link below left.) AARP members lobbied for a crosswalk and pedestrian-controlled traffic signal — and won!

Photo by AARP Texas

No Bumps in the Road

As part of a renovation project in Houston, a rocky path received a facelift. Now, the Navigation Boulevard walkway can be used by people in wheelchairs, adults pushing strollers and everyone for whom loose gravel and broken cement are an accident waiting to happen.

Photo by AARP Texas

A Community Living Room

Manhattan's Stuyvesant Town apartments date to the 1940s, but it's only been a few years since the ground floors of several buildings were converted into community spaces, including a café, a children’s center and (left) a study where residents can go to quietly read or work.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

Paths and Picnic Tables

A decade ago, Suwanee, Ga., had less than 25 acres of parks and trails. The city's strategic plan to increase and preserve its green spaces has resulted in more than 325 acres of parkland, including jogging and bicycle paths, picnic areas, playgrounds and (see the next slide) gardens.

Photo courtesy city of Suwanee, Ga.

Growing Together

The Harvest Farm Community Garden — the largest organic garden in Georgia — is owned and operated by the city of Suwanee. Raised planting beds in three sizes are available for annual rentals by residents and (if any of the 76 garden plots remain) non-residents too.

Photo courtesy city of Suwanee, Ga.

Fitness and Fresh Air

Opened in 2009 just steps from the public library, the Community Wellness Park in the Canadian city of Sidney, is an outdoor exercise space for seniors, people with disabilities and the community as a whole. Equipment offerings include cardio steppers, a mobility rehabilitator and Tai Chi wheels.

Photo courtesy city of Sidney, British Columbia

Ways to Get Around

By 2030 nearly one in five Americans, or 62 million people, will be over 65. While many of these older adults will continue to drive, some will choose other modes of travel. Safe, reliable, public transportation options (such as these buses in Burlington, Vt.) are helpful to residents of all ages.

Photo by Max Truman

Places to Sit and Wait

Traveling by bus, train, foot or bicycle are useful ways to be out and about. When the weather turns bad, or tired feet need a break, outdoor shelters (such as this one along the Vermont side of Lake Champlain) provide welcome and needed refuge.

Photo by Max Truman

Your Livable Community

Think about the places you frequent. Do the locations have appealing, livable features? Perhaps you’ve been involved in efforts to make the community you live or work in more livable. Show and tell us by emailing livable@aarp.org or Tweeting an image to @LivableCmnty.

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