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Design for Living

Ninety percent of AARP members want to live in their own home and community for as long as possible. AARP is committed to empowering its members to age with success and live independent lives. That is why AARP has made livable communities a national priority. In New York, AARP has worked together with county legislators and piloted livable community programs on Long Island and in Westchester County. The intention is to expand these programs throughout the state and make it a place of lifelong living for all New Yorkers.
Universal Design Features in Homes
Incorporating universal design features in a home is one way to make it safer for its residents. The National Center for Disease Control states that one third of home accidents can be prevented by modification or repair. AARP suggests that even the smallest adjustment, like changing a light bulb or door handle can make a home safe and more comfortable. See what modifications you can make in your own home with AARP’s Home & Safety Tips & Tools checklist.

Some of these changes can also help someone maintain their independence longer. That is why AARP suggests that home builders start building homes that are universally designed and have life long access in mind. AARP has been hard at work on a number of initiatives to do just that.

At the beginning of 2009, Suffolk County on Long Island passed a law requiring all new affordable housing to meet Universal Design and Visitability standards. AARP supported this law and collaborated with the County legislature to get this model legislation passed. This law has set a new standard for creating model initiatives that help people to age independently in their own home.

The 4 principles of Universal Design are:

1. No step entry
2. A bedroom on the first floor (or a room that can be easily converted)
3. A full bath on the main floor
4. Wide doorways (at least 36 inches)
AARP has also worked together with Access Long Island, a coalition of builders and community organizers that promotes the use of universal design, to pass ordinances that offer incentives, such as expedited zoning for private homes that include universal design plans. If you want to encourage your town or county officials to replicate these initiatives, you can download the model law and drop them off at your county center or town hall:

Make Your Community More Livable

The ability to live independently in your own community becomes increasingly more important to many people as they get older. Having independence, safety and comfort in the community means having access and transportation to get where you need and want to go.

Complete Streets

For most of us, driving is fundamental to our way of life but we need to make sure that our communities are safe for all modes of transportation including bicycles and walking. That is why AARP encourages county and state legislators to pass legislation called Complete Streets. Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders.

AARP has worked with the New York State legislature to introduce Complete Streets legislation that would require all modes of transportation be taken into consideration when a new road is built or rehabbed. This would be beneficial for older New Yorkers but equally important for all New Yorkers. Think of it this way, a sidewalk that is accessible for a wheelchair is also accessible for a baby carriage. A community that’s livable for both a child and a senior is a community that’s livable for a lifetime.

Transportation Options

Every community is different but having transportation options is what helps keep a community vibrant and active. Take a look around your community and assess what transportation options are available that would keep you mobile and active in your neighborhood. Now decide whether these transportation options are safe and accessible.

If you feel that your public transportation options are limited, you can download this checklist and AARP will work with you to make the improvements your community needs.

Programs and Volunteer Opportunities

One of the things that helps make creating a livable community successful, is getting the residents involved. A great example of this is the collaboration between AARP, Westchester County and the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services. This collaboration has led to the creation of a website that will help Westchester County residents survey their community and suggest changes that will improve on safety for people of all ages and abilities. This website serves as a model that AARP hopes to replicate statewide and nationally. (Website to launch late Fall 2009)

Westchester County has taken the initiative to become more livable by creating Livable Community Villages. These are networks of people with shared interests who work together to make changes and build collaborations within the community. The County has already formed 65 “villages” with more than 10,000 members among them. If you are part of a group that would like to learn more about becoming a Livable Community Village, visit this website for more information.

Safe and Walkable

AARP is committed to ensuring that people have a wide range of mobility options including safe streets to walk on. AARP, the New York State Department of Transportation and numerous community stakeholders are working to improve the walkability of neighborhoods across New York State through a program called Safe Seniors. This collaboration allows members of the community to survey dangerous intersections in their own neighborhoods and make recommendations for improvements. If you have an intersection that you are concerned about, you can download AARP’s walkability survey.

Making a community livable can start with one small change in your home or neighborhood that will empower residents to remain independent and engaged, and offer a better quality of life for all New Yorkers.

For more information on how to make your community a livable community, please contact AARP New York at aarpny@aarp.orgor call (866) 227-7442.

Other Resources

Livable Communities

Beyond 50: Livable Communities Quiz

Opportunities for Creating Livable Communities

Home Safety Tips & Tools

What is Universal Design?

Suffolk County Paves the Way for Universal Design Legislation

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