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Survey: What Makes a Community Livable?

AARP asked people ages 50 and older. Here's what we learned

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Access to safe green spaces and places is important to older adults, as well as to the public-at-large.

The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) conducted numerous focus groups as well as a survey of more than 4,500 people age 50-plus. Participants were asked about the communities they live in now and what features they hope will exist in whatever community they may reside in as they get older.

In the resulting PPI report, What is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults, the data is examined by such variables as gender, race, ethnicity, income, age (50 to 64 vs. 65+), drivers vs. nondrivers, and home owners vs. renters. An accompanying report, Is This a Good Place to Live? Measuring Community Quality of Life for All Ages, explores the meaning of livability and describes lessons learned by PPI as part of its work to measure community livability.

Key Findings

Without question, the vast majority of older adults want to remain in their homes and communities as they age. Among the survey's other key findings:

  • Access to nearby transportation, groceries and green spaces are very important community features to people 50-plus.

  • Where people connect and meet with fellow community members varies by race and ethnicity, with whites and Asians choosing private establishments (such as a restaurant or business) and African-Americans and Hispanic/Latino people preferring to gather at religious institutions.

  • The top services people 50-plus want implemented to improve their communities are (in order): an increased police presence; improved schools; pedestrian-friendlier streets; better transportation for older adults and people with disabilities; new or improved parks

About services finding, Rodney Harrell, Ph.D., a senior strategic policy advisor at AARP and a report co-author, observes, "This list shows that older adults’ preferences overlap with issues that are important to people of all ages."

How to Use

The community preferences survey and the PPI analysis of it will be helpful to any planner, policymaker or journalist seeking insight into the community-related desires and expectations of the now 50+ baby boom generation.

The report about measuring community quality will be of particular interest to demographers and researchers.

For a detailed analysis of the data — and to download the full reports follow the links in the box above. 

Research published April 2014

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