As our population grows between now and 2040, we expect to see a significant increase in the percentage of elderly residents across the region.
Providing opportunities for the population to stay in their communities, while remaining active and mobile depends on a number of planning factors.
The purpose of the questions below is to understand how today's planning policy and investment decisions – covering transportation, land use, housing, economic development, and the natural environment – might affect elderly residents in our region in 2040.
How would elderly residents be affected by different transportation investment alternatives: focusing on major infrastructure investments (road or rail expansions); low-capital operational improvements (improved bus service, sidewalks, and trails); or technology (including real-time information or improved traffic signal timings)?
- Alternative modes, including walking and transit, are important for the mobility and health of seniors, and should be supported. Infrastructure should be designed with multi-modal use in mind, keeping in mind the lower mobility of many seniors.
- Point-to-point transit services, such as demand-responsive services, are the most appropriate to address the needs of seniors. Short and direct trips are important, but sometimes hard to achieve on fixed-route transit services when transfers are required. Technology can be used to improve demand-responsive service or allow easier transfers.
- Car-sharing is a relatively new transportation idea, but may be appropriate for seniors who are able to drive but do so only occasionally; it also would reduce the high operating costs of paratransit service.
- Many seniors have difficulty transitioning from driving to other modes of transportation. Education and training is needed to ensure that elderly residents are aware of and comfortable with their transportation options.
- According to FHWA, roadway design changes and technological improvements can increase safety for senior drivers. Roadway design, signage, turning ratios, and improved lighting, are examples of improved roadway design and technological enhancements that would increase safety for senior and no senior drivers.
How would elderly residents be affected by different land use policies: focusing on dense, infill development; moderate densities with emphasis on community-centered design; or low-density new development?
- Denser developments are generally more senior-friendly than low-density areas. There is greater opportunity to walk to services, stores, or other destinations in denser developments. Social isolation can be a serious problem among seniors, and while higher densities do not guarantee a solution to this problem, they do help.
- A variety of lifestyle choices are desired by seniors, so higher density development does not only mean multi-family. Single-family homes in denser, mixed-used areas provide benefits as well as multi-family residences.
- Service providers also have an easier time providing services to elderly residents in denser developments, because travel time between clients is lower.
- Economic status makes a major difference in the ability of seniors to move. Wealthier seniors may be able to seek out communities with features that they like, such as higher densities or available nearby services; lower-income seniors have less ability to move, and their needs must be addressed in their existing communities.
- Community design needs to use Universal Design principles and place an emphasis on creating a safe, enticing environment which enables seniors to function well in and provides opportunities for socialization.
- Enabling seniors to remain active in their communities is important, and land use policies that both enhance accessibility and encourage clustering of services and activities are desired.
How would elderly residents be affected by housing policies: preserving existing affordable housing; creating new affordable housing near transit and jobs; or reducing housing costs through energy efficiency improvements?
- Housing and land use are closely related. For seniors to age in place, appropriate land use patterns are needed, but so is affordable housing.
- The preservation of existing affordable housing is needed, but so is the creation of more affordable housing. Much affordable housing is available in lower-density areas that are not appropriate for many seniors. Newer housing construction, which tends to provide more space per person than older construction, often does not support aging in place.
- The affordability of housing is important not only to seniors, but also to workers who provide them with services.
- While many seniors will be retired many will remain employed. Housing near jobs is critical for these seniors.