COMMUNITY

Changing demographics has caused policy makers and planners to rethink urban development and design. Some cities are taking the initiative to adapt their infrastructure to accommodate the needs of their older citizens. Studies find that boomers are no different than millennials in terms of what makes an attractive community. We all want good walkability, easy transit, affordable housing, and mixed-use spaces.

As we advance in age, we may be looking for or needing more than a well-planned city. Right now the trend for housing seems to have moved in the direction of assisted living, over 55, and other retirement communities. But that’s not the way some of us want or can afford to live. In order to be independent, housing for older people needs to change, and affordability is just one factor. Availability is another. Alternate models of housing can include cohousing and shared housing, which would increase availability and decrease isolation. And for some of us who are of a generation that venerated individualism, even a community in the traditional sense may be too conventional.

The Villages concept started in Boston in 2001 as a way for older residents in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to connect and support each other. Many were living alone, and some had limited mobility. They were able to pool their resources and age in their homes and community (known as aging in community). The movement has grown with the advent of the Village to Village Network, an organization that has over 240 communities in the United States.

Community, though, is more than just housing. It can be a state of mind. We live in a world where technology both connects us and isolates us. For some of us, the face-to-face interaction is missing, and we need to extend ourselves to find it. How do we do that?

This space explores new paradigms for aging communities—for municipalities as well as individuals. It will examine our relationship to the larger community and how we interconnect.