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AARP Livable Communities: Our Work

Helping neighborhoods, towns and cities to become great places for people of all ages

AARP Livable Communities

Bookmark us at aarp.org/livable

The AARP Livable Communities initiative works to educate and inspire elected officials, local leaders, planners and citizen activists on how to identify their community's specific needs and then create and implement the programs, policies and projects that will help meet those needs. 

Stay Informed! AARP Livable Communities e-Newsletter

The goal is for the communities where we live to be communities for people of all ages and life stages. In many places, that's not currently the case.

For instance, roadways intended to facilitate connections become barriers for people who cannot drive. Cultural activities, visiting with family and friends, shopping and other daily activities are off limits when public transportation is not available and walking is not a safe option. A home can become difficult to navigate when it hasn’t been designed to accommodate its occupants' changing needs. Remaining in a community often becomes impossible due to a lack of suitable housing options and access to essential services.

AARP brings the voices of millions into the process. If not for AARP, the community-based livability interests and needs of older adults would often be ignored.

How We Do It

1.   AARP engages public officials, stakeholders and residents at the local level to plan for and enact community changes that will improve the lives of older adults and people of all ages.

2.   AARP educates and engages volunteers and residents so they can support positive changes that enable them to remain in their communities and homes.

3.   As a national leader, AARP serves as an information resource for Livable Communities issues, best practices and solutions.

AARP's education, outreach and advocacy work has focused on building a long-term sustainable presence in communities while driving the change that will improve the lives of residents age 50-plus. Livable community changes, while having a profound impact on residents, require a comprehensive strategy to engage partners, local officials, stakeholders and the community-at-large.

Although every community is different, and we tailor our approach as needed, we are consistent that changes need to benefit older adults and that the best efforts are those that serve people of all ages, income-levels and cultural backgrounds.

Our Work In Action

We offer several ways to engage on Livable Communities issues, whether it’s on a specific issue, such as transportation planning, or a comprehensive approach, such as through the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. Because livable communities work generally takes place at the local level, where many decisions are made about community design, development and infrastructure, much of AARP’s work is derived from the community and implemented by AARP state staff and volunteers. 

We lead nationally and act locally

Established in April 2012, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is an affiliate program of the World Health Organization's Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. It is AARP's most comprehensive livable communities program, encouraging leaders to improve their community's quality of life in "8 Domains of Livability" that range from transportation to housing to employment, and it requires a rigorous program to plan for and implement community change. Take a look at the Member List to see which towns and cities are in the network.

We are a go-to resource

The AARP Livable Communities website, AARP.org/livable, is an active, centralized, award-winning online repository of information and resources about age-friendly, livable communities. (You're on it right now!) Curated for use by elected officials, policy makers, legislative staff, community leaders and citizen activists, the site contains interviews, slideshows, "how-to" fact sheets, reports, case studies, tool kits, state and local action plans, advocacy resources and guidance about implementation and funding initiatives. The site's users — and the subscribers to the free, award-winning AARP Livable Communities eNewsletter  are often key decision-makers who help shape the future of their communities. 

As recognized thought leaders, members of the AARP Livable Communities team are sought-after speakers and panelists for conferences, including those hosted by the American Institute of Architects, Smart Growth America, the American Planning Association and others. 

We are a catalyst and convener

AARP Livable Communities runs livability workshops and facilitates assessments to help stakeholders and residents identify where and how to improve the livability of their cities, towns and neighborhoods. AARP state offices often help local groups and municipalities implement the recommendations that come out of the workshops. 

Working in partnership with local and national organizations, AARP convenes roundtable events with state and local elected officials, legislative staff, nonprofit organizations, educators, foundations and business leaders. We share information about successful community initiatives and engage attendees in moderated discussions about achieving specific changes in their region. In fact, the events often serve as a springboard for AARP state offices to convince mayors and other community leaders that the 50-plus lens must be applied to community development efforts.

We educate and empower individuals

AARP Livable Communities works to promote awareness and acceptance of home and product designs that encourage ease-of-use and accessibility, regardless of an individual’s physical ability, strength or age. AARP's housing efforts involve state and local advocacy work to introduce so-called "universal design" principles and related ordinances and influence the permitting process. Working with influencers such as building industry professionals, AARP encourages the adoption of good design practices. Consumer education programs such as our popular AARP HomeFit guide and workshops foster independence by teaching older adults how to make where they live a safe and comfortable lifelong home.

We develop knowledge to drive better local policymaking

AARP's Livable Communities advocacy work promotes model legislation and includes efforts to adopt Complete Streets (also known as Safe Streets) legislation at the federal, state and local levels; transportation planning, coordination and funding that addresses the needs of all residents (including those living in rural communities); and housing design standards that make homes accessible, easier to use and more livable for people of all ages.

The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) develops the evidence-based policy analysis and solutions that serve as the basis of AARP's livable communities initiatives. Specific research focuses on Complete Streets, transit-oriented development, human services transportation coordination, affordable and accessible housing, and state-based livability policies and practices. PPI has developed an interactive Livability Index that serves as a measurement tool for AARP, public and private efforts to improve communities, and as a way for citizens to gauge the age-friendly readiness and appeal of their own community.

AARP Livable Communities also collaborates with AARP Foundation, which is developing strategies to preserve the adequacy and affordability of existing homes and increase the supply of suitable housing for low-income and at-risk older adults. Emotional and physical isolation is believed to impact as many as one in five adults age 50-plus, and the health effects are comparable to smoking and obesity. The consequences of isolation can be reduced and even prevented by having walkable streets, suitable housing and transportation options, access to key services, and opportunities for people of all ages to participate in community activities.

And our impact is growing

Since initiating livable community efforts in a handful of states in 2005, AARP’s work and influence has grown dramatically to most every state in the nation, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Millions of people now live in a town or city that has made a commitment, via membership in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, to craft and then execute a community-wide age-friendly action plan. The Livable Communities platform is a key to relevance and impact in the places AARP members and people of all ages live, work and play. 

If you have questions or suggestions, please email us at livable@aarp.org.