What are Aging-Friendly Communities?
“Aging-friendly” communities are communities that provide affordable, accessible housing, multiple modes of transportation, access to community services, and opportunities for engagement for all residents, regardless of age or ability.
Examples of features found in aging-friendly communities include crosswalks that allow pedestrians adequate time to cross the street, buildings with no-step entry, homes with one-level living, bike paths, public transportation, wider sidewalks, and easy access to medical care, shopping, and recreation. These and other features ensure that residents of all ages and abilities can meet their physical, material, and emotional needs while remaining in their communities and maintaining independence.
The growing need for such communities reflects the changing demographics of the country. Currently, one in eight Americans is 65 or older, and that proportion is expected to increase to one in five within the next 25 years. Moreover, a brief published by the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the 65 and over population grew faster than the general population between 2000 and 2010, at a rate of 15.1 percent compared to 9.7 percent.
Delaware is no exception to this trend. In fact, the percentage of the population that is 65 or older is even higher in Delaware than in the nation as a whole, at 15.3 percent compared to 13.7 percent. In addition, the Delaware Population Consortium projections show that the state’s population of residents ages 65 and over will increase by 104,000 people, or 80 percent, from 2010 to 2030.
Desire to Age in Community
According to the AARP Public Policy Institute 89 percent of Americans age 50 and over want to remain in their homes as long as possible. Similarly, The Road Ahead: AARP Survey on Community Services in Delaware found that 85% of Delawareans age 65 or older believe it is “very important” or “extremely important” to remain in their home as long as possible.
Older Americans’ desire to remain in their homes is significant because it can impact overall health care spending. A 2009 study published in Health Affairs found that states that expand home and community based health services (as opposed to services found in nursing homes and other institutions) experience long term cost savings. This finding highlights the importance of maintaining aging friendly communities that allow residents to remain in their homes without sacrificing mobility and quality of life.
Topics in this section
- Challenges for Aging Adults
- Barriers to Aging in Community
- How Local Governments can Support the Desire to “Age in Community”
- Adapting Home Environments for Older Adults
- Vital Community Design Practices
- Aging-Friendly Community Models
- Policy Brief (2019): Planning for Age-Friendly Communities: An Assessment of Two Sussex County Communities
- Policy Brief (2017): Sussex County’s Growing Senior Population: Community Voices
- Policy Brief (2016): Quality of Life Indicators Related to Sussex County’s Growing Senior Population: Preliminary Needs Assessment and Environment Scan
- Policy Brief (2014): Aging in Community Opportunities for Delaware’s Senior Population: The Significance of Accessible Community Transportation Options
- Policy Brief (2014) Understanding Demographics, Profiles, and Quality of Life Determinants Related to Delaware’s Senior Population
GIS StoryMap on Aging-Friendly Environments
This GIS StoryMap showcases planning for aging-friendly communities as a tool to achieve a Healthy and Livable community that enables people to maintain a high quality of life and productivity and has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life. This story map highlights examples “the Village Model” and Accessory Dwelling Units in Delaware.
Presentation on Planning for Aging-Friendly Communities
This downloadable slideshow on Planning for Aging-Friendly Communities provides an overview of this section of the Toolbox.