Baby boomers are retiring in droves in an unprecedented American demographic shift. The last Baby Boomer turns 65 in 2030, so we still have two decades of an aging chunk of the public. A growing body of research points to the importance of designing or retrofitting communities forwalkability to accommodate senior citizens and allow them to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle upon retirement. Walkable neighborhoods help seniors remain active, healthy, social and free to move around. How?
1. Quality of Life While Aging in Place
Many retirees choose to age in place—to avoid moving and remain in their homes as long as possible. But since baby boomers were the generation that built suburbia, many will want to maintain a quality of life in unwalkable neighborhoods.
Older adults socialize more when living in walkable neighborhoods. According to the EPA, in an age-friendly walkable neighborhood or town, regular social interaction is possible, convenient and more frequent. The American Journal of Public Health published a study published a study that reveals older people living in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods have higher levels of social interaction compared with those residing in car-dependent burbs. Living in walkable neighborhoods means you are more likely to know your neighbors, participate in politics, engage socially and even trust people.
2. Transportation + Mobility to Leave the House
Independence builds self-worth and being able to move around your neighborhood is freeing. “More than 20 percent of Americans age 65 or older do not drive. Of those, more than half — about 3.6 million people — stay home on any given day because they have no transportation, AARP says,” from a Washington Post article. Men outlive their “drive-ability” by 7 years, women by 10 years. Public transit becomes key for allowing seniors to remain independent. “A 2002 study by the National Institute on Aging found that about 600,000 people who are 70 or older stop driving every year and become dependent on other forms of transportation.”
A 2003 Brookings Institution study found that 79% of seniors age 65 and older live in car-dependent suburban and rural communities. But older adults increased their use of public transit by 40% between 2001 and 2009. About 15% of those over age 65 use public transit at least once time per month and more than half of them need specialized transportation, according to Placemaking article.
AARP’s report Advancing Mobility Options states, “One of the keys to economic and health security for adults age 50+ is their continued access to a range of viable mobility options within the community. Lack of such options can have a profound impact on how ‘livable’ communities are and have a negative impact on the quality of life enjoyed by older adults in those communities.” Public transportation boosts mobility of seniors. The Street used Walk Score to determine 10 cities where you can retire without having to use a car—around the country from Seattle to Miami.
For the complete article and additional information, please visit the WalkScore Blog:
Want to go out for dinner, but aren’t sure which restaurants can accommodate your mobility aid? Or maybe you’re looking for a theatre that offers assisted listening devices? Several new online tools have been launched in the past year that can help.
The Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map (GAM) allows anyone to submit reviews and rate restaurants, theatres, stores, workplaces, and other buildings and public places, in a similar manner as travel websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. The key difference with GAM is that users can rate these places on a scale of 1 to 5 from a perspective of mobility, hearing or sight. These reviews and ratings are plotted onto an easy to use map and can then be searched for based on location, categories such as restaurants, hotels, or museums, or by accessibility type (mobility, sight and hearing). While the GAM currently features ratings and reviews primarily from Canada, selected ratings are also available from attractions around the world such as the London Eye and the Louvre. Traditional web and mobile device versions of the GAM are available.
Another alternative is Wheelmap, which features 216657 places at the time of writing. In contrast to the GAM, however, Wheelmap currently focuses entirely on wheelchair accessible places. Users can rate accessibility based on three simple levels: yes, limited, or no, and can perform searches in a similar manner as the GAM. One particularly useful Wheelmap feature for public transit riders is the availability of accessibility ratings for public transit stops and stations. Wheelmap can be used through their website or through Android and iPhone apps.
A third site is Rollsquare, which is similar to Wheelmap and also focuses on wheelchair users. While Rollsquare currently only contains reviews for several (mostly) European cities, the developers of Rollsquare have indicated they are open to adding new cities in the future.
Do you know of any other innovative accessible web apps like these? Follow us on Twitter @SPHAccess and let us know!
Thursday, June, 02, 2011
By Matthew Strader, Enterprise Staff
Caledon’s Town Hall is going to be a little easier to get around in soon.
Of course, if you’re there for a traffic ticket, a little adversity might give you an outlet for your frustration, but the announcement this past Tuesday was about equality, rights, and the freedom to perform your own daily activities without barriers.
With help from federal funding, Caledon is going to be a little bit closer to being universally accessible soon.
In February, council listened to a presentation by Shane Holten, Access Consultant for SPH Planning & Consulting, a firm retained to audit the town’s facilities. Holten told councillors they were facing an approximately $12 million bill to upgrade Town facilities and see them made universally accessible.
The relevance of access is growing in its importance, and the issue of accessibility is just the latest way to show we are an equal society, some councillors said. All were happy to see $75,000 from the Federal Government to upgrade the Town’s main facility.
“These changes make life easier,” said Ward 1 Regional Councillor Richard Paterak. “And ensure the right of people with disabilities to have full lives. It’s the last frontier in many respects in terms of rights. We have to make sure we build a world for everyone.”
Dufferin-Caledon MP David Tilson was at Caledon’s Council to symbolically hand over the money, and said simply, “We are here today because we all appreciate the importance of removing barriers and creating independence.”
The $75,000 is part of the Federal Government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund, Tilson noted – a fund that is dispensing $14.2 million to 297 organizations across Canada.
For more information see http://www.caledonenterprise.com/news/feds-reach-out-for-accessibility/