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AARP seeks to improve the quality of life for older adults by promoting the development of safe, accessible and vibrant environments often called livable communities. Livable communities policies address issues such as land use, housing and transportation, which are vital to developing communities that facilitate aging in place.
A livable community is safe and secure, and provides affordable, appropriate housing; adequate transportation; and supportive community features and services. Once in place, these resources enhance personal independence, allow residents to age in place, and foster residents’ engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life. Explore
Many communities present barriers that prevent older residents from participating fully in the life of the community and from accessing important services. As the population ages, the importance of community and workplace features that promote physical independence and enhance opportunities for community engagement for all residents becomes more apparent. Innovative design and modifications, as well as technological advances, can allow people of varying physical abilities to live more independent and meaningful lives. The physical design of workplaces, communities, and facilities can greatly enhance individual independence, dignity, and choice. The availability of accessible features, facilities, housing, road design, walkability, transportation, and supportive services influences not only whether a person can remain in the community but also the types of activities in which someone can participate. Proper land-use planning and design are critical to developing livable communities. This page on livable communities highlights the major land-use, housing, and transportation policies that support successful aging. Explore
In The Spotlight
In recent years, a shift toward more mixed-use development is taking place in many locales. Mixed-use development is a design philosophy similar to that of a traditional small town, with homes, shops, restaurants, pharmacies and other commercial buildings and community features in close proximity (breaking from a more common approach of separating land uses). This allows residents of all ages the option of walking or taking public transportation between homes and commercial areas. Creating more walkable communities where older people have more housing choice involves updating state and local regulations and land-use policy. Revised zoning and building codes, and urban design standards and guidelines can improve the physical design of communities to better meet the housing and mobility needs of older adults and those who have low and moderate incomes.
The availability, affordability, and variety of housing options can affect older people’s ability to remain independent and actively engaged in the community. Housing is inextricably connected to quality of life and often provides financial security to the approximately 80 percent of people age 50 and older who own their own home.
Many older people experience serious housing problems because of high housing costs and inaccessible home design features that decrease physical safety, cause isolation, and do not support aging in place. The financial and physical burdens of maintaining a home can result in a decline in physical and mental health. Conversely, health problems may lead to difficulties in maintaining a home. Loss of one’s home may result in a loss of important community ties, or in institutionalization, which has been linked to a decline in physical and mental health.
Enjoying the benefits of home and community may be difficult for older people without the provision of home-and community-based supportive services and programs, and appropriate transportation options that provide adequate alternatives to driving. Policies that promote affordable housing, housing accessibility and fair housing practices can improve the quality of life for older adults as they age within their communities.
Older adults need transportation to the places and services that support their independence. As federal, state, and local policymakers consider transportation investments, they should take into account older adults’ mobility requirements and desire for mobility options, including travel on foot or bicycle and by car, bus, train, plane, and, in some areas, boat. Because of physical limitations, many older adults need specialized transportation services such as door-to -door paratransit and escorts to doctor’s offices. All of these options must be safe, affordable, accessible, dependable, and user-friendly. Policies that encourage adequate, safe and accessible transportation infrastructure and services help people of all ages stay active and engaged in their communities.
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