What We’re Reading: Walkability to Serve Seniors and Their Communities

  • Author: Andrew Carpenter
  • Date: July 27, 2017

bikes and pedestrians

Older adults want to age in place, and mobility options are a key factor in doing so

Millennials aren’t the only generation to want more walkable communities. As Baby Boomers begin to hit retirement age in significant numbers, communities are beginning to face new ways of providing for their older members. This includes transportation accessibility and walking, since it turns out older adults would rather age in place as community members than isolate themselves in senior communities that make it difficult to get around.

One such indication comes from a survey produced by A Place for Mom, a company that connects families to senior services. Older adults indicate they would rather live in walkable, intergenerational communities that make it possible to reach basic services with ease, which makes it easier to live independently and saves people from spending inordinate amounts of time being bused outside of retirement campuses anyway.

Research from Mobility Lab in Arlington, Virginia, backs this up through work with local seniors, showing them as “savvy users of public transportation.” Older adults in the county “are active, strategic, and use many different transportation options,” indicating older adults will embrace aging in place if it’s possible. A vital factor for success, though is that “communities need to plan for a time when their members cannot drive and might need to rely on public transportation.”

In Kansas, Lee’s Summit appears to be doing just that as they prepare for this generational shift. Planners are working toward recognition as a “Community for All Ages,” making it feasible – and pleasant – for older adults to move around and live independently for as long as possible. Lee’s Summit officials acknowledge that improving independent mobility options for seniors plays a major role in the city’s overall human services outlook.


Safety and accessibility promote mobility

Walkable – and bikeable – communities promote mobility for everybody. Some places are developing innovative ways to increase accessibility to these benefits for as many community members as possible, particularly older adults and people with disabilities.

Portland, Oregon, is launching Adaptive Biketown, a public rental program with different types of bikes to accommodate different disabilities. This makes the city’s bike network more accessible to more people, and improves their opportunities to get around.

Overall road safety plays an important role in communities’ walkability. Though there are a number of factors that influence this, street design is an important contributor. Concerned community members in neighborhoods around the country sometimes feel the need to take matters into their own hands to force traffic to slow down, so it is encouraging to see that Fayetteville, Arkansas, has embraced this concept of tactical urbanism to support citizen engagement in making it safer and more enjoyable for everybody to get around.


Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Andrew Carpenter (carpenter@ctaa.org).

Image credit: waferboard Flickr, Creative Commons


We’d love to hear from you!

Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (kashner@ctaa.org).

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