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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.
In The Spotlight
- For older residents, livable communities include elements that help them to maintain independence and quality of life.
- A livable community has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.
- Community attachment is linked to successful aging.
- Whether the home meets the physical needs of individuals well may affect successful aging outcomes.
- Mobility options allow nondrivers age 50 and older to stay connected to their communities
AARP Land Use Principles
Enhance access. All communities should consider the connections among land use, housing, and alternative transportation/mobility options. Communities should coordinate decisions in these areas to enhance residents’ independence and active engagement and promote successful aging in place. Land use, housing, and transportation plans should be evaluated and periodically updated to ensure that they meet the needs of an aging population.
Create communities with a strong sense of place. The built environment should be in character with the natural environment and respect community values. Preserve valued historic and community resources to create and reinvigorate intergenerational pride in the community and help reverse patterns of decline.
Prioritize investment in sustainability. Increase energy efficiency, reduce infrastructure costs, foster long-term affordability, enhance transit availability, and reduce the community’s carbon footprint and the negative health effects of climate change.
Promote mixed-use development. Land-use planning that connects residents to jobs, services, retail, recreation, and entertainment through an interconnected network of ―”Complete Streets” sustainably increases transportation options and social interactions.
Foster lifelong-learning opportunities. Encouraging the intergenerational use of public facilities provides residents with lifelong-learning opportunities that contribute to personal growth and economic productivity.
Connections Among Planning, Public Health, and the Environment
Planning, public health and environmental quality are closely linked. Poorly planned communities can contribute to sprawl and exacerbate poor environmental conditions. Such communities may lack safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle connections or have poor access to public transportation. As a result, residents must contend with higher levels of traffic accidents or face limited access to basic needs such as jobs, health care, and supermarkets. Poor land use and transportation planning may also create hazardous environmental conditions such as degraded air and water quality due to airborne pollutants and stormwater runoff. These barriers and environmental concerns often affect low-income and rural communities, including older adults who may suffer from health issues or functional impairments that are worsened by unhealthy environments. Explore
Natural Hazard Mitigation and Recovery
Community planning can also help in reducing the damage caused by natural disasters. Such hazard mitigation activities reduce the long-term risks to life and property from events such as blizzards, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, and tornadoes. Experts predict that future natural hazard events in the US could be even more damaging and costly. Global climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of storm events. Explore
Community Redevelopment and Revitalization
Communities are not static, but ever changing. These changes can be both positive (leading to sustainable growth) and negative (leading to population and infrastructure declines). Older residents are often hit hardest by declines in a community’s quality of life, either because they have put down roots and prefer not to leave or, for reasons of reduced mobility or lack of financial resources, they cannot leave. Effective planning and land-use decisions can help to ward off deterioration and declining property values while encouraging redevelopment that enhances the lives of residents of all ages and incomes. Explore
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