While many people may dream of retiring to a sleepy little town by the sea or to the mountains, the reality is quite different: four out of five U.S. adults 65+ currently live in metropolitan areas; in a decade, three out of every five people on the planet will be city dwellers. One think tank has dubbed cities “ground zero for the demographic shift that is changing America and the world.”
Aging populations must be an integral aspect of new models for city planning, in terms of housing, health, economic development and growth strategies that will serve future generations, say researchers.
Age-forward means age friendly. According to AARP, where we call home, how we communicate, how we move about, and what we do with our time all contribute to active aging. Katy Fike, co-founder of Aging 2.0, delineates 9 pillars of age-friendly cities:
- Mobility (transportation and walkability)
- Social participation
- Engagement (civic participation and employment)
- Connection (communication and information)
- Health (community support and access to health services)
- Independence (food shopping/meal preparation)
AARP and Fike agree: it’s up to each community, city and state to develop and implement policies and programs that enable elders to thrive, wherever they live.
Five Age-Forward Cities That Are Taking the Lead
New York City: You might think a bustling metropolis like New York City would be more difficult to adapt for aging adults than smaller communities — but you’d be wrong. In the last decade New York has enacted a profusion of senior-friendly changes throughout the city, including:
- Longer crossing times at intersections
- 130 “pedestrian safety islands” where slower walkers can pause partway until the crossing signal indicates it’s OK to continue
- Renovated, glass-enclosed bus shelters with expanded bench seating
- School buses that normally sit idle during the school day, repurposed to take seniors shopping
- A database of classes for free or reduced cost at the city’s colleges and universities
- City swimming pools with extended senior swim hours
- 251 senior centers located throughout the city, offering activities from guitar lessons to salsa classes to jewelry-making workshops, and much more.
Los Angeles: The City of Angels (and LA county) have embarked on an ambitious regional Purposeful Aging initiative to make the area the “best place to grow old in the world,” according to the Los Angeles Department of Aging. Like NYC, LA will soon provide:
- More affordable and accessible transportation
- Safer streets and sidewalks
- Health care focused on an aging workforce prevention
- Practical solutions to address people with dementia who wander.
Washington, DC: Washington has had an Age-Friendly DC initiative in place since 2012, featuring:
- A Safe-at-Home program with home adaptation grants to help residents age in place
- Zoning revisions allowing Accessory Dwelling Units, which permit senior relatives to live in small homes on the property of their adult children
- Construction of more than 500 below-market-rate housing units for older residents — including ones for those raising grandchildren.
Kansas City, MO: While the older adult population is booming in Kansas City, Boomers themselves are moving elsewhere. The Mid-America Regional Council has been working to make the metro area more age-friendly, including applying an “age-lens” to city, parks and strategic plans.
Tampa, FL: Tampa is partnering with the Florida Department of Health to create the nation’s first Age-Friendly Public Health System. “As the state with the largest proportion of older adults, it is no wonder that Florida was selected to pilot” this initiative,” says South Florida gerontologist Kathy Black. Tampa is also testing out the Miami-based startup Papa, a “grandkids on demand” service that pairs young adults with seniors who need help with household tasks — or just want someone to talk to.
“When we talk about aging services, it’s often been narrowly focused on Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act,” says aging expert Amanda Lehning, assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work. “What’s really exciting now is that the aging-friendly community movement is broadening the discussion about what kinds of things we should be doing so older adults can continue doing what they’ve done throughout their lives.”
Where to Live for Tech-Assisted Retirement
Finally, if a digitally savvy senior plans to use technology to help them live better in retirement, these are the 10 cities that will provide the maximum range of senior-related tech services available to make senior living as easy and enjoyable as possible.
The researchers who developed the list evaluated the availability of transportation (Uber), dog sitting (Rover), house and yard care (Porch), grocery delivery (Instacart), and professional caregiving (CareLinx) to make their assessment.
Of course, it’s no surprise that age-forward Washington, D.C. tops the list. With Kensington Park located just outside the nation’s capital, it’s the perfect setting for an active senior to enjoy the best this area has to offer.
Here’s the complete list:
- Washington, D.C.
- Philadelphia, PA
- Chicago, IL
- Austin, TX
- Houston, TX
- Boston, MA
- Miami, FL
- Denver, CO
- Atlanta, GA
- Portland, OR
Intergenerational Living Is Age-Forward, Too
Just as Tampa and DC are developing models of age-inclusivity, age integration is also a cornerstone of age-forward living, note researchers.
Caroline Servat, associate director for the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, says, “It doesn’t just take capital. It takes an all-hands-on-deck approach. The first step is for cities to realize there is value in approaching their aging population as part of the solution to the many challenges they’re already looking at.”
Here at Kensington Park, age-forward defines the essence of who we are. Our residential lifestyle is designed for seniors at every level, from residents who are fully independent, to those needing some support, and those residing in our memory care community.
Kensington Park’s full service aging-in-place philosophy means your senior loved one is surrounded by professionals dedicated to making their lives as pleasant and productive as possible. We’re like an age-forward city in miniature!
Come visit us soon, and let us show you why a move to Kensington Park may be the perfect next step for your loved one now.
Additional Recommended Reading:
- Ring in the New Year with Your Senior Loved One
- Caregiver, Not Guest: Celebrating the Holidays
- Bringing Back the Best Old-Fashioned Holiday Traditions
- What Signs of Alzheimer’s Did You Notice First?
- The Importance of Group Outings
- Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine: How to Strengthen Your “Amuse” System