Zoning Strategies for an Aging Country
A recent roundtable discussion was convened by the Urban Institute to discuss strategies for building communities that accommodate older adults' increasing demand for aging in place.
Local zoning codes often restrict the high-density, multi-use building plans that would benefit aging residents. Thus it is perhaps not surprising that age-friendly alternatives that have traditionally been developed are "expansive gated communities, built in spoke-and-wheel phases around a central clubhouse facility, and marketed to the 'active-adult' retirement set seeking to avoid interactions with family-based households," as described in a UC Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy [pdf].
Such retirement communities are outdated and unpractical for an aging, low-income populace. As John McGinty and Pamela Blumenthal point out, "while 90 percent of adults age 65 and up want to age in their own homes, more and more seniors live on fixed incomes, and housing can be a major financial burden." Retirement communities are not only expensive but also homogenous, exclusionary and resource-intensive.
Restrictive zoning regulations that promote the construction of low-density development disconnect older adults from their community and limit access to vital goods, services, and resources," writes Kourtney Liepelt for Home Health Care News.
The two-day meeting outlined several tenets of an ideal building code for age-friendly towns, including mixed-use properties with accessible grid-like streets connecting to public transportation and accessible retail.