If you asked your senior loved one what they want in the town where they currently live to be happy and meet all their needs, do you know what they would answer?
Would they want a Walmart or a hospital?
Would they want a doctor or a movie theater?
Would they have to have a Starbucks?
Each person will want something different and that’s what makes city life so unique.
Each different city across the country has its own unique personality!
You might be surprised about how your senior answers these types of questions when they are asked.
Do you wonder if their current city or neighborhood is meeting their current needs or perhaps their future needs?
AARP has created a livability index to help communities work toward creating places that encourage independent living for its older citizens. It is intended to be a guide for improvements as well as a way to compare cities across the nation.
The index contains 60 factors for home buyers looking to relocate to a more livable location.
It is true that the majority of older adults, such as your own senior loved one, wish to remain in their own home as they age. However, their present home may not be in an area that is considered livable for independence in aging.
A livable community is described as one that has housing, transportation and other options which allow seniors to remain independent.
The index contains seven categories and denotes a score for communities that can be compared nationally with other cities.
What Seniors Want
There are specific items that seniors who are surveyed desire in their communities and neighborhoods as they age.
These items help them remain independent and achieve an optimal quality of life.
These features include:
- Bus stops, public transportation
- Grocery stores
- Big box store
- Shopping mall
Seniors are looking for options to fulfill their current interests but also those needs they forecast for the future as they age.
Their home now may be meeting their needs but they realize that in 5-10 years it may not provide them the services that are required for independent living.
Current States of the Neighborhood
What experts have found when reviewing the ideal settings for aging seniors is that our current cities are often lacking in the items that makes them the most livable for aging.
The main reason why communities are falling short of the term livable is that they have been built up using the automobile at the center.
The planning of neighborhoods in the past often included cul de sacs, which inhibit traffic flow. These homes were ideal when homeowners were raising the kids and the homes accommodated large families and safety for playtime.
Now the home is too large for seniors who raised their children and are usually two story and isolating from the neighbors.
When an elder has a two-story home, it may be limiting their functionality with mobility issues or simply difficult to maintain over time. Even the house ages and needs constant care.
Some of these larger homes are expensive for aging seniors to own and maintain as well.
Neighborhoods with larger family dwellings that were sought out by young families but now house seniors have few options for smaller homes or condos in the very neighborhoods these seniors would like to remain.
This homogenous housing development can be limiting for seniors.
Another major factor keeping some communities from earning a high livability score they may want is public transportation. Rarely can one walk to the grocery store or doctor from those neighborhoods and public transportation is not available.
How Family Fits
This livability index did not address family caregivers and the desire of seniors to live near family.
Many senior adults live at a distance from the family unit due to their own retirement relocation or kids who have traveled and settled across the country (or internationally) for their careers.
How can family members fill the gaps in needs and options for aging seniors when they may be at a long distance?
If the family does live nearby, are they able to drive seniors where they need to go when they want to get there? The answer is not always yes.
There are many things that family caregivers can do to facilitate their senior loved ones remaining in their home as desired during aging such as connecting them with home meal delivery, encouraging friends to visit, setting up transportation with ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft, ordering groceries online, securing paid caregivers to help with household and personal chores and hiring gardeners/handyman to care for the yard and home.
Getting these services done so seniors don’t need to do them can make staying home possible.
Find — or Make — the Right Fit
Seniors and their caregivers have many options to help them live independently with help from people and organizations in their community.
Their neighborhood doesn’t have to score high on the index to be able to live a successful life as they age as long as all the necessary interventions have been put in place to meet their needs.
Naturally, communities should be making changes to help seniors live within the favored community as they age in place, but caregivers can help fill the gap.
Doing a few things to secure help when it is needed so that your senior loved one can live in their home as long as possible will be worth the time and effort.