Shifting our mindset as we think about planning to age in place

by Robin LeBlanc | Jul 16th, 2015 | Leave a comment

In December of 2014, we blogged about the Tri-State Conference on Aging,  which we had attended.  Since then, we have been invited to be part of an emerging coalition of diverse people and organizations  that is taking a collaborative approach to address aging in New Hampshire – an effort of the Center on Aging and Community Living (CACAL) at UNH and the NH Endowment for Health.   Robin LeBlanc, Executive Director of Plan NH, was asked to chair the work group that is addressing “Living Arrangements.”  (You will hear more about that in the weeks and months ahead.)

Then on Monday, July 13, we attended a gathering at the CACL offices in Concord to watch the proceedings of the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA), which is held every 10 years.

A couple of immediate observations:

  • The terms “elders” and “seniors” and “those who are aging” are extensively used as if this is a separate, special-interest population.  Moreover, there is often (especially at the WHCOA) an “us” vs “them” context.  But in fact, we are ALL aging.  Indeed, many of us in the room at these meetings have white hair ourselves, and yet many continue to talk about “them”.

What if, instead of speaking in the third person, we switched to first person?  “What do    WE need as we get older; what do WE need to be considering ….?

  • Most of the conversations we have been involved in and/or observed have seemed to be looking at getting older as a medical issue.  True, as we get older, we face conditions not (usually) seen in younger folks.  Most people over 65, someone remarked, have at least one  “condition.” And after the age of 85, down the road about 50% will have some form of dementia (they project.)  And true, healthcare services and medicines (and access to them and their affordability) are extremely important.

 It was interesting to note that there was no mention of how to keep people healthy as they age. Here is an interesting article about a totally different approach to designing “senior” communities




Communities for All: Equity and Independence

by Robin LeBlanc | Jul 16th, 2015 | Leave a comment

We learned from “Franklin for a Lifetime” that an age-friendly community is made of many parts. For one, a livable community facilitates personal independence and engagement in social and civic life. Structure and services make this possible — transportation, buildings and community programs. Ultimately, an age-friendly community does not constrain those who have mobility limitations or chronic conditions nor does it segregate age groups or social classes. Instead it promotes access. Here are some ideas for livability:

  • Affordable & adequate choices for places to live available in a variety of styles and prices for all residents
  • Community services like hair salons, pharmacies, coffee shops or markets
  • Options for getting about like public transit, bicycle lanes or handicap accessible sidewalks

Built environment considerations:

  • Walkable environment  with sidewalks, road buffers or reintroducing front-porch
  • Destinations to walk/patron like parks, open space or community-desired businesses
  • Ways to safely cross the street with designated crosswalks, pedestrian x-ing signs and enough time to cross

Encompassing ways to address those who need assistance without isolation:

  • Services/programs to support aging in place like home doctor visits or drive-thru grocery pick-up
  • Principles of “universal design with one-floor living or ramps instead of stairs

These concepts are easier-said-than-done, but they need not happen at once to benefit residents. Consider these guidelines for community health and well-being as we brace for change.  Imagine your favorite place–How many of these ideas are represented?

Want to know your neighborhood’s walkability rating? try this: Walk Score

To learn what others are saying about “aging in place” look here:

Nat’l Aging in Place Council

Partners for Livable Communities