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Sunday
Jul102011

Seniors Don't Fit Cities

By LAURAN NEERGAARD

 

NEW YORK— America’s cities are beginning to grapple with a fact of life: People are getting
old, fast, and they’re doing it in communities designed for the sprightly. To envision how this silver tsunami will challenge a youth-oriented society, just consider that seniors soon will outnumber
schoolchildren in hip, fast-paced New York City.

It will take some creative steps to make New York and other cities age-friendly enough to help the coming crush of older adults stay active and independent in their own homes.

“It’s about changing the way we think about the way we’re growing old in our community,” said New York Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. “The phrase ‘end of life’ does not apply anymore.”

With initiatives such as using otherwise idle school buses to take seniors grocery shopping, the World Health Organization recognizes New York as a leader in this movement. But it’s not alone.

‘Lifelong communities’
Atlanta is creating what it calls “lifelong communities.” Philadelphia is testing whether living in a truly walkable community really makes older adults healthier. In Portland, Ore., there’s a push to fit senior concerns such as accessible housing into the city’s new planning and zoning policies.

Such work is getting a late start considering how long demographers have warned that the population is about to get a lot grayer.

“It’s shocking how far behind we are, especially when you think about this fact that if you make something age-friendly, that means it is going to be friendly for people of all ages, not just older adults,” said Margaret Neal of Portland State University’s Institute on Aging.

 

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