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Atlanta Regional Commission Lifelong Communities Initiative


The Atlanta region, like many cities across the U.S., is experiencing a dramatic shift in its demographic makeup. By 2030, one in five residents in the area will be over the age of 65. This rapid growth in Atlanta’s older adult population is demanding new and diverse housing options and transportation alternatives, as well as community designs that facilitate and promote active aging. The Smart Growth Network produced this brief report to examine Lifelong Communities, the approach of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) to transform communities into places where people can live throughout their lifetimes.

Key Points

ARC is testing new models that create better housing and transportation alternatives and improve access to health and wellness services by combining planning, community organization, and policy reform among all levels of government. In 2009, ARC sponsored a nine-day charrette that brought together a broad range of professionals, community planners, government officials, local citizens, and an internationally recognized architecture and planning firm to create consensus around a community vision and plan.

As a result of the charrette, six master plans were developed for the Atlanta region that demonstrated how new development and retrofitted suburban communities can support people of all ages throughout their lifetimes. Seventy-eight local governments adopted this Lifelong Communities Initiative, committing to incorporating the needs of older adults in all aspects of community planning and design. Another product of this charrette were seven core principles for making a lifelong community. These principles include:

  • Connectivity – creating viable street networks for all modes of transportation
  • Pedestrian Access and Transit – providing vibrant streetscapes and pedestrian facilities that allow residents to walk to and from destinations and transit locations
  • Neighborhood Retail and Services – permitting retail locations within walking distance from housing to reduce traffic and increase community walkability
  • Social Interaction – providing public spaces, community centers, and neighborhood gardens that encourage interaction among residents
  • Diversity of Dwelling Types – developing a range of housing options that allow people to remain in their communities as they age
  • Healthy Living – creating public spaces and retail locations within walking distance from houses will increase walkability and promote physical activity while reducing the risk of isolation
  • Consideration for existing residents – allowing current residents to remain in their communities as they age by providing diverse housing and transportation options

How to Use

This report can be used by community planners and local government officials to gain an understanding of what the Atlanta Regional Commission is doing to promote active aging through its Lifelong Communities Initiative. The Atlanta region has made notable progress toward creating livable communities that promote healthy living among all residents and allow older residents to successfully age in place, in their homes or communities. The core principles provided in this paper can be used by other communities looking for guidance in establishing a regional initiative to improve the livability of their communities for residents of all ages and abilities.

View Full Report: Atlanta Regional Commission Lifelong Communities Initiative

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