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Domain 1: Outdoor Spaces and Buildings

Tools and resources for working within the "8 Domains of Livability" to create livable communities for the benefit of older adults and people of all ages

Outdoor Spaces And Buildings, An Asian Family Walks And Holds Hands In The Park, Livable Communities, 8 Features Of An Age Friendly Community

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Outdoor spaces and public places need to be accessible and useful for people of all ages.

People need public places to gather — indoors and out. Green spaces, safe streets, sidewalks, outdoor seating and accessible buildings (think elevators, stairs with railings, etc.) can be used and enjoyed by people of all ages.

The following list of resources — from AARP and elsewhere — relate to Domain 1 of the "8 Domains of Livability." The content is categorized into three groups by level of difficulty, with the first group generally being the easiest reads for people new to this work and the third featuring deeper, data- and policy-heavy papers and reports.

Introductory and Easy-to-Use Resource

  • How to Create a Grandparent Park
    In need of a place for children and adults to exercise and spend more time together outdoors, Wichita, Kansas, built a playground for all ages. (AARP)

  • How to Create a Parklet
    In places crowded with streets and structures, small open spaces (even those as small as a parking spot) can provide lots of room to relax. Parklets were first introduced in San Francisco, when an art and design studio created one to call attention to the scarcity of outdoor public spaces compared to the abundance of parking lots. (AARP)

  • How to Create, Maintain and Manage an Intergenerational Community Garden
    With fresh produce hard for many residents to come by, residents of a Vermont town get down and dirty by working together to grow fruits and vegetables. The Fresh Start Community Farm offers insight to their successful gardening program and shares "how-to" advice for how other communities can grow the food they need. (AARP)

  • How to Plant 99 Street Trees in Just a Few Hours
    As part of a multifaceted neighborhood renewal effort, the city of Providence, Rhode Island, installed 99 steel, basket-style planters along  a business district in an historic but struggling community. AARP volunteers and others stepped up with money and muscle to transform the planters into symbols of how livable communities can work. (AARP)

  • The Power of 10+: Applying Placemaking at Every Scale
    In order to thrive and be a desirable place to live and work, a community needs to have at least 10 restaurants, 10 public spaces, 10 entertainment venues, 10 outdoor destinations, etc. You get the idea. (Project for Public Spaces)

  • Understanding "Joint Use" and Making It Work
    By sharing resources (such as athletic fields or indoor gyms), community organizations (including schools, churches, YMCAs) can both save money and help residents stay healthy. (

  • What Do Seniors Need in Parks?
    As America’s population rapidly ages, parks and recreation agencies need to serve people of all ages. Among the useful features to include, according to this report: informative signage, accessible pathways and a variety of active and passive activities. (American Society of Landscape Architects)

  • What Makes a Successful Place?
    Accessibility, sociability, comfort and engagement are identified as the four essential characteristics of equitable public spaces. (Projects for Public Spaces)

  • What is Placemaking?
    As part of the effort to strengthen the connection between people and communities, placemaking emphasizes how a strong sense of setting or "place" positively influences the health and happiness of residents. (Project for Public Spaces)

Tool Kits and Comprehensive Overviews

  • Addressing Childhood Obesity Through Shared School Facilities
    Most schools have a variety of recreational facilities, such as gymnasiums, playgrounds, fields, courts and tracks. However, most of schools close their buildings to the public after school hours due to concerns about costs, vandalism, security, maintenance and liability. At the same time, having duplicate facilities in a community is not the best use of time or resources. A "shared use agreement" can address many of these concerns. (Safe Routes to Schools)

  • 5 Questions About Form-Based Codes
    Joel Russell, executive director of the Form-Based Codes Institute, explains what such land use planning is and isn't. (AARP)

  • Livability Fact Sheet: Density
    The aging U.S. population and ongoing decline in the share of households with children is boosting the demand for smaller homes in more compact neighborhoods. The "Density" fact sheet, part of an award-winning 11-part series, can be used by policy makers, planners, land use officials, housing specialists, community leaders and citizen activists to educate themselves and others about how to smartly plan and build mixed-use neighborhoods and developments. (AARP and the WALC Institute)

  • Livability Fact Sheet: Form-Based Code
    By using the physical form rather than the separation of uses as an organizing principle, form-based codes offer a powerful alternative to conventional zoning. The fact sheet gives an analysis of form-based code benefits and strategies to revise a community’s map and zoning standards. (AARP and the WALC Institute)

  • Livability Fact Sheet: Street Trees
    To quote a Chinese proverb, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." The fact sheet, part of the award-winning AARP Livability Fact Sheet series, explains how trees planted along roadways and sidewalks both aesthetically and economically benefit communities. (AARP and the WALC Institute)

  • The Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Transformation of Public Spaces
    Expensive, labor-intensive initiatives are not the only, or even the most effective, ways to bring energy and life into a community’s public space. This online package explains why. (Project for Public Spaces)

  • Placemaking for an Aging Population: Guidelines for Senior-Friendly Parks
    An attractive, comprehensive resource that explains why outdoor spaces are important for older adults, the guide provides information about the types of parks and park features that serve the population best. Go directly to page 103 to see the design guiidelines. (University of California Los Angeles UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs)

In-depth Reports, Policy Papers and Analysis  

Published Summer 2015. Compiled by Katelyn Dwyer and Joseph Cheatham.

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