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Environmental and Policy Change to Support Healthy Aging - An Overview


The walkability and accessibility of a community impacts the level of physical activity among residents and their ability to age in place. This online presentation is the first in a series intended to address the concepts of active aging and to demonstrate the direct link between healthy aging and the environment. Additionally, this presentation discusses the implications for practice and policy change to better support walkable and livable environments for communities across the country.

Key Points

Active aging is the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security to enhance quality of life as people age. This presentation examines the impact environments have on many aspects of active aging including health and physical activity, access to fresh and nutritious food options, falls and accidents, mobility, and social/emotional well-being.

Analyzing the efforts and initiatives of other countries that promote livability and create physical environments that foster active aging is an excellent way for communities in the U.S. to begin planning environments that will accommodate the changing needs of the growing older adult population. Five planning initiatives of countries abroad that are working to improve the livability of communities in the area are addressed in this presentation including:

  • UK’s Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods initiative
  • Japan’s expansion of Universal Design
  • Australian Local Government Association’s commitment to local planning initiatives that
  • New Zealand’s modification of existing homes to better accommodate the changing needs of older adults
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities Project

Zoning and planning policies significantly impact the livability of a community. This presentation provides a brief outline and list of policy change examples that will help to promote livable and accessible communities (slide 28). For example, communities can work to modify local zoning policy to permit mixed-use development where housing is located within walking distance to retail locations, restaurants, and grocery stores.

How to Use

Developing a knowledge of policy and best practices, exchanging knowledge with citizens and professionals in the field, and studying design solutions that address the aging prospective are smart strategies for local planners, government officials, and community leaders looking to improve the livability of their own neighborhoods. Providing an environment that supports and promotes active aging is an important aspect of keeping older adults healthy and engaged in our communities. Watch this presentation to gain an understanding of the critical link between the physical environment of communities and the health of older adults, as well as the implications this relationship has on local policies and practices.

View Web site: Environmental and Policy Change to Support Healthy Aging: An Overview

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