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AARP Research Insights on Livable Communities

AARP Research insights on livable communities highlights US adults' experiences with housing, transportation, community engagement, and aging in place.

spinner image Senior women having coffee on the front steps of a suburban home.

HOUSING

Age-friendly and affordable housing is a very important factor to 50-plus adults when considering where to live. 

Most 50-plus adults are homeowners, and many will need to update their homes to allow them to age in place. 

Older adults believe it is important for communities to have homes that are located near essential services and include features and technologies that support independent living. 

  • In-home technology is another feature that can reinforce living independently, and many 50-plus adults say it is important to have access to reliable and affordable in-home high-speed Internet (76%) that can support technology like smart appliances, voice activated home assistants, and doorbell cameras. [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.]

  • Fifty-plus adults feel it is important for their community to have housing located near key services like grocery stores and health care facilities (63%). Having housing stock that supports peoples’ changing needs as they age is also important to older adults as more than half place high importance on having a variety of housing types that can fit people’s needs as they age such as smaller single-family homes, multi-family homes, and apartments (55%), and homes that have accessible features like no-step entries and wider doorways (53%).[Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.]

Although most older adults do not currently have accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property, many would consider building or living in one for caregiving purposes. 

To support aging in place, adults 50-plus would also consider sharing their home as another option.

TRANSPORTATION

Nearly all 50-plus adults prefer to drive themselves, and a large majority want community features that support drivers. 

Although few older adults use public transportation, many advocate for it in their communities. 

  • Like all adults, 50-plus adults recognize the importance of having transportation alternatives in their community. More than half (53%) say having safe public transportation is a very important community feature. Nearly as many believe having public transportation should be well-maintained (48%), go where residents need to go (47%), runs on time (47%), and includes stops that are accessible to residents of all physical abilities (46%). Older adults also advocate for public transportation that is affordable (45%) and located close to their home (34%). [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.]

  • Many 50-plus also see value in having a special transportation service for older residents and/or residents with disabilities (37%) and a taxi or ride share service (22%). [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.] 

OUTDOOR SPACES AND BUILDINGS

Adults 50-plus want to live in communities where they feel safe and supported, regardless of their physical ability, and can easily to get around using all transportation modes.

Adults 50-plus want their communities to be walkable and feature key services, including local businesses.

SOCIAL PARTICIPATION, RESPECT, AND INCLUSION

Adults 50-plus sometimes feel lonely and isolated and would consider moving to be closer to family members for support.

Adults 50-plus seek out communities offering a variety of activities that promote social interaction and appeal to all residents regardless of race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status.

Adults 50-plus believe that communities should have social activities that benefit specific groups of residents, especially older adults and military families.

Adults 50-plus are strong advocates for the equal treatment of all residents in their community.

More than three-quarters of 50-plus adults believe it is important for communities to ensure that all residents are treated equally regardless of race, gender, age, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or other differences (77%). [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.]  

More than three in five 50-plus adults feel it is important to have community-wide actions that reduce inequities in the well-being of all residents regardless of race and ethnicity (61%). [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.] 

CIVIC PARTICIPATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Half of 50-plus adults are actively working or seeking work and want to live in communities that foster employment for older adults and those with disabilities.

  • Approximately three in five 50-plus adults believe communities should have policies that provide equal opportunities for older adults to continue working throughout their lives (58%). [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.] 

  • Comparable results from another study show that adults 45 and older highly value good job opportunities (62%) in their community and protection from age discrimination (66%). [Source: AARP Vital Voices 2019–2021, fielded August 2021.] 

  • About half of 50-plus adults want communities to offer jobs that can accommodate people with disabilities (53%), a range of flexible job opportunities for older adults (51%), and job training opportunities for older adults who want to learn new skills or receive training in a different field of work (48%). [Source: 2021 AARP Home & Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus, fielded June–July 2021.] 

  • Similarly, adults 45 and older are very interested in keeping up with technology to help them develop their job skills (40%), advance their career (39%), and learn new job skills (30%). [Source: AARP Vital Voices 2019–2021, fielded August 2021.]

Adults 50-plus want to give back to their community through volunteering.

Adults 50-plus believe it is important for communities to support local volunteers in a variety of ways.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND HEALTH SERVICES

Adults 50-plus want to continue living independently in their current community for as long as possible.

Adults 50-plus still want to remain in their own home, even if they need long-term care to help with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, managing medications, or preparing meals.

Adults 50-plus are in good health, and they recognize the importance of access to quality health care in their community.