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Aging-friendly Cities

With a critical mass of financially secure boomers preparing for retirement, many cities are finding ways to make themselves "aging-friendly" to retain and attract this market.

RAND writes,

"many boomers are financially secure, even well-off, and thus comprise an attractive market. Not surprisingly, the economic potential of this demographic is no longer reflected only in “snowbird” retirement communities, with cities as large and as dense as Cleveland, Portland, and New York now engaging in strategies to keep current baby boomers in residence and to attract new ones by making such accommodations as extending walk signals at intersections, ensuring better draining of street gutters, and engaging the business community in dialogue about how to make their shops and services more “age-friendly”.

New York is planning two pilot aging-improvement districts, somewhat akin to business-improvement districts. The NYTimes writes, "the goal is to create a public-private partnership that would encourage businesses to voluntarily adopt amenities for the elderly. Examples could include window stickers that identify businesses as age-friendly; extra benches; adequate lighting; menus with large type; and even happy hour for older residents."

Implications

Efforts to retain the wealthy elderly raise a number of issues. RAND highlights that many suburban and semi-urban areas are not completely walkable for seniors nor accessible via public transit, and these seniors must drive even as they become less able to operate them safely. Indeed, data suggests that as people old, the risk of accidents steadily increases, and so communities attracting the elderly might face public automobile safety concerns.

IFTF adds that this could trigger backlash against the elderly, as NIMBY sentiments mobilize against having large numbers of the elderly in the community. Furthermore, while many cities may be investing in aging-friendly districts, they might still be cutting public transit services or senior centers which poorer boomers rely on. Thus, strategies for retaining the wealthy boomers could come at the expense of leaving the poorer boomers behind or driving them elsewhere.

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Sources:

RAND, Nov 2010, page 5-7: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/RAND_Nov2010.pdf#page=5

Hartocollis, Anemona, “A Fast-Paced City Tries to be a Gentler Place to Grow Old”, New York Times, 18 July 2010. Accessed 10/29/10 at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/nyregion/19aging.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

State of Metropolitan America: On the Front Lines of Demographic Transformation, Brookings institution Metropolitan Policy Program, 2010.

Quality Planning Corporation, 29 September 2003. Accessed on 10/29/10 at:
http://www.qualityplanning.com/qpc_resources_public/news/030929-Older percent20drivers.htm

“Car Plows Through Market, Killing 9”, CNN.com, 17 July 2003. Accessed 10/29/10 at: http://articles.cnn.com/2003-07-16/us/farmers.market.crash_1_russell-weller-accidentpedestrians?_s=PM:US

Wilson, Kimberly A.C., “Elderly Wrong Way Driver sets off Fatal I-5 Crash Near Grants Pass”, The Oregonian, 1 July 2009. Accessed 10/29/10 at: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/elderly_wrong_way_driver_sets.html