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Livable Communities and the Baby Boomers

A free 'Governing' magazine eBook looks at how the boomer generation is aging, and changing the meaning of old age

The 76 million American babies born between 1946 and 1964 began reaching retirement age in 2011. For the next two decades, members of the Baby Boom generation will be turning 65 at a rate of 8,000 a day.

But unlike their parents’ retirements, which typically involved leaving the workforce at 65, many boomers don’t have the money to retire. And instead of moving to an adult community in Florida or Arizona, most boomers intend to stay active and, ideally, stay put in the homes they love — or else relocate to a thriving urban center with transportation, health care and activity options.

In An Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The generation that changed everything it touched — including old age, a free eBook available by download (see box at right), the writers and editors at Governing magazine have compiled their articles about the impact aging boomers will have on public policy, health care delivery systems, the economy and communities nationwide.

Key Points

While the entire eBook is filled with insight and information about what’s likely to come from the boomers at 65+ (for instance, the collection cites AARP research noting that “by 2030, 10 states will have more Medicare-eligible seniors than they have school-age children”), the following articles more specifically address the impact aging boomers will have on housing and communities.

"Boom(er) Town: How will an aging population reshape America’s cities" (page 13)

Arlington, Virginia, is a semi-urban, semi-suburban county across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The area is popular with young professionals and young families, yet the local government is already planning for its projected population circa 2030, by which time the community’s age-65+ citizenry will have doubled and the number of its 85+ residents will be tripled. (The aging populace will be due to both existing residents getting older and to current and future young residents moving their elderly parents to the area.) This article looks at what Arlington and other cities are doing — and need to be doing — to get ready.

"Is Your City Age-Friendly?" (page 18)

This one-page, abridged checklist based on the World Health Organization’s eight domains of age-friendly communities is a helpful, bulletin board-worthy crib sheet and reminder of what towns and cities should strive for. (To see the complete WHO list, download the “Checklist of Essential Features of Age-Friendly Cities.”)

"Everybody Get Together: Aging residents are increasingly turning to cohousing" (page 20)

Young singles frequently seek out roommates in order to share expenses and not live alone. The same hasn’t generally been true of older adults, but why not? In a cohousing arrangement, which can be age-restricted or multigenerational, residents share common spaces, divvy-up chores, care for one another and have regular gatherings (such as for a weekly meal), but maintain privacy by residing in their own apartment or suite within a large home or building, or in a cottage within a larger development. Governing notes that the cohousing trend is new in the United States but provides insight into existing developments and sources for finding more information.

"Going Mobile: Transportation agencies turn to mobility management" (page 28)

As the U.S. population ages, the nation needs to address the transportation needs of adults who due to age or disability cannot safely drive or, in some cases, travel unaccompanied. Depending on the community, the solution may be improved public transit infrastructure (e.g. buses, trains), paratransit vans, or even specialized taxi services. Also needed, since the baby boom generation is a driving generation: education about public transportation, and encouragement to use it. Accompanying “Going Mobile” are articles about older drivers and about the impact of older, disabled residents on public transit systems.

"Stay at Home, Mom: States are searching for affordable ways to allow seniors in need of long-term care to remain in their homes" (page 34)

Rather than consign older adults who can't live on their own to nursing homes, the CHOICE program enables Medicaid-eligible seniors to stay in their homes by providing home- and community-based care. The article looks at the program’s significant cost benefits for government and the health and emotional benefits for seniors.

How To Use

While we’re highlighting the five articles noted above, the 51-page free eBook download contains Governing's 23-article collection, which can be read through in varying depth depending on your particular interests and informational needs. As a whole, the articles provide an important preview of what’s to come and why policymakers, organizations, communities and individuals alike would be wise to prepare.

eBook published November 2013
Summary by Melissa Stanton

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