The World Health Organization started the whole concept of making a community age friendly. To meet their standards, the following criteria must be met. WHO, which has a global network of age-friendly communities, has identified eight key areas:
- Outdoor spaces and buildings accessible and used by all ages
- Transportation options that could range from trains to buses to ride-sharing services
- Houses that can be modified for aging in place (a den on the first floor becomes a master bedroom, better lighting to prevent falling, wider doorways) and various housing price points
- Social participation to mitigate loneliness.
- Respect for, and interaction with, other generations and people
- Opportunities for older adults to work or volunteer
- Disseminating information in different ways, not just smart phones or the internet (that an older person might not use)
- Access to affordable community and health services
That is quite a list for seniors to think about as they contemplate moving or staying in their current location. Does affixing the label of age friendly community guarantee a perfect community for retirement? Can every town or county, large or small accomplish this? Not likely, but it is a great aspiration. I would suggest that it may take a massive amount of public/private cooperation and effort to change an existing community.
What if you have the opportunity to start from scratch. What does that look like? People have their priorities. Some may want the social aspect to be foremost. I just read about 4 couples who have been life long friends that formed a tiny town of small affordable houses with a community building out in the Texas desert as vacation homes. It checks off affordable housing, social cohesiveness but how accessible is it to services? Will they all permanently migrate there when they are older?
Building a co housing development from the ground up a goal that many people have, but not the assets to invest. These communities may have to build out there where land is affordable and more isolated. How do you keep it age mixed and transportation friendly? Another new wrinkle is that home care providers are starting a pilot program to partner with Master planned age restricted communities to offer ala carte service packages to those still in their homes. You stay in your home and they bring assisted living to you. The idea of of course to move people sooner into the assisted living facility within that Master planned community.
Being goal directed is really the most important part of planning to age in place. Just make sure it is built on your goals. There is always the potential to reinvent the wheel so to speak. Master community or tiny town of your own making is only the best choice when it is your choice. Maybe it is simply that you would rather be looking at your own four walls than someone else’s. Home is where the heart is, even if it is not age friendly perfect.