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New Visions for Livable Cities

These mayors are applying fresh ideas to serve older residents’ needs

En español | What does it take to create a better community? Almost always, it starts with people with passion for the cause, a well-conceived plan for improvement and the tenacity to make it happen. Across America, mayors of cities large and small are exhibiting these traits — and getting results.

In the December issue of the AARP Bulletin, we shared stories of five communities that were well on their way to becoming more livable for an aging population.

Here, we focus on four mayors who are making changes to improve the quality of life in their communities. Of note: Only one of the four has reached age 50, and just barely. Yet all are mindful of the needs of their communities’ older residents.

paul tenhaken the mayor of sioux falls south dakota sits on the desk in his planning office where the walls are covered in colorful post it notes and maps

Sioux Falls, S.D.

The mayor has been working to make the city’s bus system more hospitable to older riders. He assembled a team with little or no transit experience to look at the system with fresh eyes and is implementing an on-demand experiment that works without set routes and schedules.

columbia south carolina mayor steve benjamin poses with a bicycle in front of a city bus

Columbia, S.C.

The mayor has focused on public transportation. He has worked to improve the bus system and provide new options, such as car services. Public transportation ridership has increased by 70 percent over five years.

miami florida mayor francis suarez sits on a bench outside an apartment building with two residents

Miami, Florida

Housing in this city is expensive, which puts a particular burden on older residents. The mayor has worked to divert some city funds to help people in need pay rent. He also has worked with others to identify land where more affordable housing can be built.

phoenix mayor kate gallego shows off a roof fitted with solar panels

Phoenix, Arizona

Rising desert temperatures pose health threats that can put older residents especially at risk. The mayor has worked to develop cooling corridors and fight for expansion of  the eco-friendly light rail system.