Cities across America are finally realizing their populations are aging at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, their architecture is designed for the young.
In New York City seniors will soon outnumber school children. New York Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs says, “It’s about changing the way we think about the we’re growing old in our community.”
One New York innovation is to use school busses, historically idle during the day, to transport seniors to the grocery store. Other cities are on getting on board. Atlanta, Georgia is creating “lifelong communities”. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is testing the theory that living in a walkable community makes adults healthier, and in Portland, Oregon senior concerns such as accessible housing are finding their way into new planning and zoning policies.
Identified as the nation’s first “aging improvement district”, East Harlem boasts sixty stores furnished with folding chairs to give seniors a rest while running errands. The stores assure isles are free of tripping hazards and signage is in large type making it easier to read. Community pools have senior hours so seniors can lap swim without the bustle of children.
With his office on a long block, Accountant Henry Calderon invites older passers-by to rest in his air-conditioned lobby. They don’t have to be customers, but Henry knows they might be some day. “It’s good for business, but it’s good for society, too”.
Every day for the next few decades, thousands of people will turn 65. By 2050, 1 in 5 Americans will be seniors, and worldwide, almost 2 billion people will be 60 or older. Looks like Henry may be onto something.