The notion of aging in place -- at home, close to friends and family, close to the things they know best -- is a key desire of Baby Boomers, many of whom are advancing into their 60s.
The MetLife Mature Market Institute reported today that communities in the U.S. can follow a relatively simple and low cost initial set of indicators to determine if their services meet the needs of an aging population.
“These indicators can be measured using information that is readily available and adaptable to local governments, providing a low-cost way for local governments to begin to examine the specific needs of their aging populations,” said the center.
Its study - “Livable Community Indicators for Sustainable Aging in Place” - was done with the Stanford Center on Longevity.
Here are the key factors cited by the study:
Housing - Accessible/visitable housing that is affordable. Zoning laws that permit flexible housing arrangements such as building assisted living facilities or private homes on relatively small lots.
Transportation - This includes mass transit, senior transport programs, walkable neighborhoods (safe for pedestrians), nearby parks and recreation, roads with visible signage, adequate lighting, and adequate vehicle and pedestrian safety at intersections.
Safe Neighborhoods - Low crime rates and emergency preparedness plans that take the needs of older residents into account.
Health Care - An adequate number of doctors (primary care and specialists), hospitals and the presence of preventive health care programs.
Supportive Services - The presence of home and community-based caregiving support services, and the availability of home health care, meals-on-wheels and adult day care.
Goods, Services and Amenities - Retail outlets within walking distance, restaurants and grocery stores offering healthy foods, and policies supportive of local farmers' markets.
Social Integration - Programs and organizations that promote social activities and intergenerational contact. Places of worship, libraries, museums, colleges and universities are often underutilized resources.
"We know people generally prefer to remain where they are as they age, connected to friends and family, and communities lose an economic and social asset when older people leave," said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
"With that in mind, we supported the development of these indicators by studying the best existing tools and data. Communities can now make assessments and begin to implement change with readily available public data."