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Age-Friendly Communities: 4 Things to Look For

Below, Seabury Resources for Aging welcomes guest blogger Linda Hetzer as she shares her tips on age-friendly communities.

What makes a community more livable? What makes a community one that works better for people as they age?

An age-friendly community is a place where people of all ages can live and work together and everyone is treated with respect regardless of their age or ability. Places large and small, from busy urban areas to small retirement communities, are starting to address this issue by making the environment more accessible and by tapping into the collected wisdom of its residents.

What would you look for in an age-friendly community? Here are four things to think about.

The people. Older people—really all of us—are happier when we are near family members and friends, and where we can make new friends. If we are considering moving to a new home we would want to go to a place where there are people in the community who share our interests, whether that’s sports or theater, a book club or a place to worship, and people who share our life view. It’s great to be surrounded by people who have lots of different interests, just as we have different interests.

Housing. Homes for older people must be safe, accessible, and affordable. Having grab bars and good lighting is important but so is having less clutter. One of the things we learned in writing our book, Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home, is that while people may have great difficulty getting rid of clutter—the stuff that has accumulated for years—they are much happier when they do. The mantra of our book, “Keeping the memories, getting rid of the stuff…” works for people of all ages, those looking toward retirement as well as those looking to simplify a full and active life.

Opportunities. Age-friendly communities provide activities that everyone can participate in, ones that are accessible, affordable, and varied in type. It’s important to have jobs, both volunteer and paid, that utilize the insight of older people, and an environment that promotes health and wellbeing. A place where people of all ages can interact is terrific; experiencing life with people of all generations contributes to a fuller, richer life.

Communication. Communication, in whatever form information is exchanged, should be easily available and open to all people. A blueprint for outreach to all members of the community is vital. Transportation that provides the way for people to get together in a community is essential and needs to be available to everyone and easy to use. An age-friendly community provides community support for all its members, and that includes convenient and affordable health services.

Accessible, affordable, and welcoming seem to be the key words here. And the most compelling point about creating a more livable community—one that has all of these attributes—is that experts say that anything that makes life easier and more enjoyable for older people turns out to be good for people of all ages. So an age-friendly community is what we all want—and need!

Linda Hetzer is coauthor, with Janet Hulstrand, of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home, and of the blog Downsizing the Home: Lessons Learned.

From time-to-time Seabury has guest bloggers post on our site. Although we welcome their thoughtful contributions, the views, opinions, and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Seabury Resources for Aging. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to errors, omissions, representations, or infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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