Planning and Community Engagement

Livable communities consider the needs of older adults in all phases of planning, from conception to implementation. Planning for aging:

  • Creates physical and social environments that support independent and active living;
  • Engages older residents when soliciting community feedback and guidance;
  • Respects aging and understands the physical, social, and mental needs of older adults; and
  • Values multigenerational interaction and cooperation.
In July 2014, the American Planning Association adopted an Aging in Community Policy Guide that encourages the planning community to play a leadership role in encouraging comprehensive approaches and mobilizing resources to enhance the quality of life of our aging population.

Age-friendly planning, engagement, and innovative programs and services inspire interaction and understanding between older adults and the rest of the community. These efforts not only keep seniors involved, they signal to all residents that seniors are a respected and valuable part of the community. Age-friendly, multi-generational facilities and programs can also more effectively use limited resources to meet the needs of multiple generations while breaking down spatial and conceptual barriers that might otherwise prevent interaction between younger and older people. Additionally, stimulation through community engagement is a key to helping older adults remain highly functioning and retain their independence as they age. The effects are measurable—a recent study found that older adults demonstrated increased brain activity following participation in an intergenerational program designed to help elementary school children with their reading skills and conflict resolution. The effect was still significant six months after the study was over.

The following case studies explore planning efforts and programs that respect aging, provide integrative services, and offer opportunities for young and old to build mutually beneficial relationships.

Case Studies
Active Aging: Community Gardens and Senior Health
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia Corporation on Aging connects seniors with gardening programs to keep them active and engaged.
*This case study is cross-posted under Health and Wellness.

Age-Friendly Business: Dementia-Friendly Businesses
Watertown, Wisconsin
On a journey to become one of the first dementia-aware communities in the United States, Watertown sets its focus on business.

Age-Friendly Business: The Age-Friendly Local Business Initiative
New York City, New York
An educational outreach campaign in New York City gives businesses a boost in attracting and retaining older customers.

Comprehensive Planning: Planning a Lifelong Community
Mableton, Georgia
The Mableton Master Plan and Smart Code envision the historic community’s future as a walkable town center for people of all ages.

Shared Spaces: Swampscott High School and Senior Center
Swampscott, Massachusetts
In a town with the same number of seniors as households with children, opportunities for intergenerational interaction abound.

Shared Spaces: Age to Age Kindergarten
Coffeyville, Kansas
A local school district and a nursing home work together to provide a unique intergenerational kindergarten program.