The best communities for elderly Americans provide “accessible and affordable housing options; transportation; walkability; safe neighborhoods; emergency preparedness; and support services like health care, retail outlets, and social integration,” according to a new report from the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the Stanford Center on Longevity.

According to the report, the most critical characteristics of an age-friendly, livable community can be measured using these indicators:

■ 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.

■ Safe neighborhoods. Low crime rates and emergency preparedness plans that take the needs of older residents into account.

■ Transportation. Including 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.

■ 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, 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, EdD, 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.”

According to Amanda Lehning, who collaborated on the report, “Every community is unique. Local governments should think about how to adapt these indicators to best meet the needs of their residents,” she says.

“Efforts to help older adults age in place can also potentially improve the community as a whole. For example, older adults can make valuable contributions as neighbors, caregivers, and volunteers. They also patronize local businesses and are a factor in tax revenue.”
See www.MatureMarket