Creating Age-Friendly Cities
When we’re young, living in the city means nightlife, culture, great eats, and easy transportation to work and play. For older adults, however, the picture can look very different: skateboards and scooters may pose a threat to sidewalk safety, slower gaits make it harder to cross the street in time, and mass transit can be both a health and safety concern.
Yet transportation is just one aspect of what makes a city age-friendly — or not. According to AARP, where we call home, how we communicate with others, how we move about, and what we do with our time all contribute to active aging. Katy Fike, co-founder of Aging 2.0, takes it a step further, delineating 9 pillars of age-friendly cities:
- Mobility (transportation and walkabilty)
- 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 dwell.
Fortunately, technology is optimizing these pillars to ensure adults who choose to age in place — perhaps with the help of a reverse mortgage — can be healthy, secure, mobile, and engaged as they grow older.
Apps and Emerging Technologies For The 9 Pillars
We’ve explored many of Fike’s recommendations in previous posts, particularly those related to aging apps and health; taken as a whole, these technologies create age-friendly opportunities for seniors everywhere, with a lot of positive overlap.
Here’s a summary to share with your reverse mortgage clients, prospects, and their families:
Inclusivity: Rendever, a virtual reality app that expands an elder’s world, enabling someone to relive and reconnect in the comfort of their living room. Rendever has been shown to boost happiness, and reduce loneliness and depression.
Social participation: Stitch, a friendship site for older adults, and Televisit, a non-profit that provides meaning and purpose to isolated elders through facilitated group activities delivered via teleconference and tablets.
What We Can Learn from New York
You might think a bustling metropolis like New York City would be more difficult to adapt for aging adults than smaller communities — and you’d be wrong. While vibrant West Asheville, North Carolina has done an excellent job of making its community more walkable and age-friendly, in the last decade New York has enacted a profusion of senior-friendly changes throughout the city, including:
- Longer crossing times at intersections, with a countdown indicating seconds remaining;
- 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.
“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.”