As the massive Baby Boomer generation approaches older adulthood, communities must make adjustment to accommodate the changing demands of this group. By 2030, nearly 72 million Americans will be age 65 or older, representing 20 percent of the total U.S. population. This age shift will affect all facets of community life ranging from housing to healthcare. States and communities must plan for these future changes today by understanding the needs of an aging population, assessing their ability to handle such needs, determining their service and infrastructure gaps, and establishing strategies to fill in the gaps. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging produced this report to examine the specific needs of the aging Baby Boomer generation and to educate community leaders and local officials on the impact this aging population will have on many community aspects.
According to findings from a 2006 national survey assessing the “aging readiness” of counties and cities in America, less than half of U.S. communities had begun any planning efforts to prepare for their aging population. This report outlines the key areas of community life that will be impacted most by the aging population including housing, health, transportation, land use planning, parks and recreation, workforce development, civic engagement, and economic development. It also addresses five state efforts intended to prepare for their own aging populations. In order for planning and design efforts to be effective there must be good governance, good public outreach and education, and they must make the community more livable and accessible for everyone.
State efforts highlighted in the report include:
- Stratham, NH – this community modified its zoning ordinance to provide an “Affordable Senior Housing” zone that allows for accessory apartments, no minimum lot sizes, and an “elder affordability” housing option under the standard multi-family housing section.
- Arvada, CO – by adopting an ordinance that mandates 15 percent of new homes of all types must feature universal design components, Arvada demonstrated progress toward improved community livability.
- St. Louis Park, MN – to embrace their vision of becoming “a community so special that people will consciously choose to make St. Louis Park their lifelong home,” St. Louis Park revised its comprehensive land use plan to move forward as a more livable community for residents of all ages.
- Detroit, MI – working with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the city implemented new standards such as pavement markings, brighter stop lights, and improved street name signage to make streets safer for older drivers.