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Three Articles on Planning for our Aging Population

  • The Impact of An Aging Population on Planning, by Greg Dale, AICP
  • The Future is Now: Mobility & Seniors, by Hannah Twaddell
  • Careful Attention to Older Citizens Benefits All, by Elaine Cogan

Read excerpt from Greg Dale’s article:

1. Housing Choices. We can reasonably assume that as people age, some will choose (either by preference or by necessity) to consider alternatives to the single-family detached house on a large lot. Housing and lawn maintenance will become increasingly difficult or undesirable for many aging people. Yet, single-family housing remains the style most prevalent in suburban communities.

We are already seeing market demand for alternative housing options. For example, what the housing industry calls “lifestyle housing,” consisting of high amenity single-family homes on small lots, often with common maintenance, has already begun to enter the market. We also witnessed an initial surge in assisted and congregate living housing in recent years. While this slowed down due to overbuilding, we can expect that this market will get hot again as the aging baby-boomer process continues.

Communities will need to be prepared to deal with a diverse range of housing products. At the same time, experience shows that any house style other than detached single-family often faces local opposition and controversy. The challenge for communities is to determine whether they want to provide housing options enabling life-long residents to remain in the community as they age, or whether these residents will be forced to find housing elsewhere.

2. Land Use

The location and mix of housing relative to other uses is a related issue. Will graying baby-boomers continue to want to live in communities where the automobile is necessary for every activity?

Should cities and towns explore mixed uses that allow seniors the opportunity to experience community life without getting in the car? There is a growing interest in rethinking the way in which we have segregated land uses from one another, and encouraging modern versions of mixed use town centers where people can shop, work, recreate, and learn in a neighborhood environment. Many people feel that the aging population trend has the potential to fuel additional interest in this as more baby boomers look for alternative living arrangements.

Senior housing provided by nonprofits and public agencies for low- and moderate-income residents has often been located in downtown areas –- recognizing the advantages of proximity to health and social service agencies, public transit, and other activities. As wealthier baby-boomers age, cities –- and developers -– are increasingly promoting downtown living for this group for many of the same reasons, not to mention having restaurants and cultural attractions within walking distance.

For many cities this also ties in to an interest in strengthening their downtowns. In San Diego, for example, 5,000 people moved into downtown in the last five years, bringing the total residential population to over 20,000. Estimates are this number will reach 80,000 by 2030. And many will be aging “empty nesters.”

End of excerpt

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