Many older adults say they want to stay put in their homes as they age. But how many older adults will actually be able to do so is another question.
Indeed, “a recent AARP study … showed that 71 percent of 50 to 64 year olds want to stay in their homes and their current communities,” says Rodney Harrell, director of Livability Thought Leadership at AARP. “But communities as we build them often don’t have the options that people need to age well. The idea of a livable community is one that has housing, transportation, and other options that allow people to stay and thrive in their homes.”
For example, older adults have found the following community amenities are most important to them to live near (a.k.a. 1 mile or less):
- Bus stop: 50%
- Grocery store: 47%
- Pharmacy/drug store: 42%
- Park: 42%
- Hospital: 29%
- Church/religious: 29%
- Train/subway: 23%
- Big box store: 18%
- Entertainment: 16%
- Shopping mall: 13%
AARP has launched a Livability Index to help older adults search for the right home. It factors in seven categories of livability in judging neighborhoods, including on housing, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and more.
If people do desire to age in place, they must carefully assess a home when they buy in the first place whether it will meet their needs as they grow older and under several scenarios too.
“If you are on that cul de sac and your spouse has passed, your kids live elsewhere and your income is much lower and you are no longer driving, then suddenly that dream house, which wasn’t planned for long term, is isolating,” says Harrell. “You may no longer be able to access the second floor and the functionality and usefulness of the house is suddenly gone.”
In fact, Harrell continues: “When we look at places through our livability index, some of the most prized communities are very low on livability index for three reasons. First, these neighborhoods score low because they are so homogenous. Their lack of variety of housing options limits the type of home owners who can live and continue to live there. Next, they are expensive – if your income changes for any reason, you can’t live there. And the third reason is that there are no alternative transportation options.”
Source: “What’s Your Neighborhood Score for Aging in Place?” BUILDER (Aug. 19, 2016)