Aging in Places: About livability and age-friendliness

Cross-posted from Wicked Local Newton
By Marian Leah Knapp

More and more I hear talk about “Livable” and “Age-friendly” communities. I see these terms in newspapers, websites, blogs, and presentations. For many years, I have been intrigued by the ideas underlying these broad concepts. Interestingly, my very first article in the Newton TAB of April 6, 2010 was on the Meaning of Aging in Place. I quote myself:

ThinkstockPhotos-482434606 [Converted]“Aging in place well means that the community — including formal resources such as government, service providers, churches and synagogues, along with informal groups, and networks — is aware of and advocates for the characteristics that make up a livable community for all citizens — including its elders. …Newton … is a place where there is opportunity for civic engagement, appropriate housing, good transportation, a way to meet new people and retain old friendships, a sense of safety and security, connection to the natural world, employment, intergenerational venues, and access to arts and culture.”

When I wrote these words six years ago, Newton was just beginning to acknowledge that our population was aging. In 2010 and 2014 we had higher percentages of elders than the state and nation. The 2014 U.S. Census-American Community Survey shows that 21.6 percent of Newton residents were age 60 and over compared to 20.3 percent for Massachusetts, and 19.5 percent for the country – all up from 2010. Certainly there are other places in the U.S. (Florida) and in the state (Cape Cod, Berkshires) with higher proportions of seniors. But we are on the leading edge of the aging curve. Projections from the UMass Donahue Institute estimate that by 2030, Newton’s population age 60 and could be 31 percent.

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