The vitality of many American cities comes from our perceptions of them as hives of industrial, commercial – youthful – activity reinventing those very cities with each generation. Though such regeneration still goes on, the fact of the so-called ‘silver tsunami’ of aging Baby Boomers means many cities are having to reconsider how to service and accommodate ever growing proportions of older residents.
An Associated Press story discusses the efforts of a few cities to get ahead of the demographic shift, and to ensure that their communities do not become ghettoes of like-aged residents.
Medicinal and prosthetic improvements over that last few decades means that not only are Baby Boomers likely to live longer than their parents, but they will be more mobile and expectant of mobility for much longer. For urban dwellers in New York, though, the homes they live in and the places they want to frequent might not be ready for such developments. But many neighborhoods are making great strides through the.
The program uses, for example, city school busses to ferry older residents to food markets and adult-education activities while the children are in school. ‘Time Banks’ encourage bartering of services and expertise among retirees. And whenever taxis are replaced, a model with larger doors and lower entries is brought into service.
But in this rare instance, New York is not the harbinger of style or innovation:
is creating what it calls “lifelong communities.” is testing whether living in a truly walkable community really makes older adults healthier. In , Ore., there’s a push to fit senior concerns such as accessible housing into the city’s new planning and zoning policies.
Such work is getting a late start considering how long demographers have warned that the population is about to get a lot grayer.
Indeed, one in five Americans will be seniors by 2050. Which is why many cities are trying to get young professionals on board to help expand the opportunities of their elders and to ease their own later years. Indeed, urban planner Laura Keyes of Atlanta is quoted as stressing the fact that Millennials and Boomers often want similar urban experiences: mixed neighborhoods, local green spaces, easy access to markets, general walkability and safety.
And neither wants to be shuffled off to a nursing home while they are still engaged and mobile.
The story stresses the short-term costs of adding bathrooms and benches to public spaces, but most urban planners see longer-term economic opportunity in the effort because younger residents will not feel so driven to move to suburbs as they grow older.
The evolution of the American city continues with the evolution of America’s population.