U.S. Older Adults: Demographics, Living Arrangements, and Barriers to Aging in Place
- White Paper
Nearly all older adults prefer to age in their homes and their communities as opposed to an institutional facility (See Farber et al. 2011). To act on this preference, the houses and local communities where older adults reside must be made far more age friendly. That is, major efforts are required to modify existing and design new single-and multifamily housing units, all public and private sector buildings, and the community level infrastructure of streets, pedestrian walkways and crossing signals, signage and lighting, as well as outdoor parks, recreation, and entertainment facilities to accommodate an aging population (Lawler, 2015; Feather, 2015; Hodin, 2015; Irving 2016).
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a toolkit to guide the development of age-friendly communities (WHO, 2007). Subsequently adopted by AARP, the toolkit identifies eight domains of livability in which planning is required in order for communities to become great for people of all ages: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community and health services (AARP, 2017). In each of these domains, WHO and AARP provide concrete planning guidelines and checklists for local officials to follow in their efforts to create age friendly communities.
To ensure that the nation’s rapidly growing senior population is able to age in place for as long as humanly possible, research suggests that WHO/AARP-inspired communitylevel planning must be anchored in sound local demographic intelligence on both the characteristics of older adults and their increasingly diverse living arrangements (Johnson and Parnell, 2016-17). Among the demographic considerations is the way the now five generations that make up the U.S. population—pre-boomers, boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z–are sorting themselves out residentially in urban and rural communities throughout the country (Blumenfeld, 2014).