My friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer sent me this recent article (thank you!) Can car-centric suburbs adjust to aging Baby Boomers? We want to age in place, but neither or houses, or their locations, are always designed for us to do that.
In fact, the American suburbs, built for returning GIs and their burgeoning families, are already aging. In 1950, only 7.4 percent of suburban residents were 65 and older. By 2014, it was 14.5 percent. It will rise dramatically in the coming decades, with the graying of 75.4 million baby boomers mostly living in suburbia.
But car-centric suburban neighborhoods with multilevel homes and scarce sidewalks are a poor match for people who can’t climb stairs or drive a car.
“Most [boomers] are in a state of denial about what really is possible and what’s reasonable for them as they age,” said John Feather, a gerontologist and the CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, a national association of foundations for seniors.
Staying put is not without costs, and not just for retrofitting the house to make it accessible. Instead, the article notes, "[r]etirees who want to stay in the suburbs will have to cover the rising costs of property taxes and utilities, and they may have to shell out big sums to retrofit their homes if they become frail or disabled. One study found that it can cost $800 to $1,200 to widen a doorway to accommodate a wheelchair, $1,600 to $3,200 for a ramp, and up to $12,000 for a stair lift. Major remodeling, such as adding first-floor bedrooms or bathrooms, can cost much more."
Then of course, there is the issue of transportation. Out in the suburbs, we may not be able to walk to the stores and services we need, and some of us may no longer be able to drive. Transportation is critical and we all know about Americans' love of automobiles. So, what's the answer?
Even if a suburb has a regional transit system, the routes are often limited and geared to help commuters get to and from work in the city. The nearest bus or train stop may be miles from the subdivisions where aging boomers live. And while the Americans with Disabilities Act requires most public transit systems to provide pickup “paratransit” for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular bus or train services, that applies only to people who meet certain criteria.
One alternative is transportation services overseen by a federally funded network of local agencies that offer services and support to older adults to help them age at home and in the community. In many regions, these Area Agencies on Aging contract with local providers that offer door-to-door van services to older adults who qualify. But those programs, often geared to taking seniors to medical appointments and grocery stores, usually offer little flexibility and require clients to make reservations.
The article examines whether such an option will work for Boomers and what local governments need to do to prepare for this demographic change in suburbia. Of course, some elders choose to move to communities that provide the services and amenities they want and the article discusses these briefly.
But what about transportation? Doesn't that remain the elephant in the room? So, off on a tangent...I read another article this morning about Uber selling passes in NY for ride-sharing. Lyft is partnering with GM so drivers can rent cars. Are we going to see ride-sharing services as an option (or solution) for elders who have had to give up driving? But will this only be an option for those elders who can afford ride-sharing services? I'm still hopeful about self-driving cars....
July 26, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Housing, Other | Permalink
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