AARP works to promote awareness and acceptance of universal design – an approach to product, household, and home design that emphasizes ease of use and accessibility for all, regardless of an individual’s physical ability, strength, or age.
Our universal design work has typically taken three paths: state and local advocacy efforts to introduce universal design and related ordinances and influence the permitting process; work with influencers such as the building industry to encourage adoption of good design practices; and consumer education via programs such as our popular AARP Home Fit Workshops to teach people about home safety, design and resources.
In research we learned that the phrase “universal design” is neither well understood nor particularly descriptive, and can even have negative connotations. Thus, we are working with a group of housing experts to rename the principles of universal design, “Better Living Design” or BLD. This naming also allows for messaging from both a positive and aspirational framework. This is particularly important as we know people’s homes are not aging as well as they are, and many need upgrades.
AARP Livable Communities Resource Hub
In 2012, we launched the AARP Livable Communities Resource Hub, a central repository of critical information and resources on livable communities for local officials, policymakers and citizen activists. Located at www.aarp.org/livable, this site features 1,000+ best practice case studies, planning documents from states and communities, advocacy resources (including model legislation), and guidance on how to implement and fund local initiatives.
The goal in creating the Hub was to create an authoritative go-to livable communities resource for busy leaders by consolidating relevant information from a wide range of sources. A central repository of this kind did not exist before and was something that many had identified as a need in the field.
The site has been organized into three main buckets of information to allow readers with varying degrees of knowledge or engagement on livable communities to benefit from the resources: Learn, Plan, and Act. A user who is new to livable communities can start with background information in the Learn section. Someone who is more advanced can access information on how to plan or implement change in their community in the Plan and Act sections.
Wrap-up summaries for each resource allow readers to review key points and how-to-use information before they decide whether to access the full document. In addition, leaders and activists who have succeeded in making their community more livable are invited to share their experience through the site’s Community Story feature. Additional interactive features are under development.