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Sustainable, Livable Communities & Aging in Place

by Louis on October 18, 2012

I presented at the American Planning Association – Delaware/Maryland Annual Conference today. I was asked onto the panel by the impressive Debra Young, an occupational therapist and owner of of Empowerability, LLC. The other esteemed panelist was Alex Chen, Ph.D., a planning professor from University of Maryland.  I learned from both of them.

This was my first presentation for planners. I enjoyed putting my thoughts together. The conference theme is ‘What Makes a Complete Community.” I like that. I said committing to dignity and choice for older citizens leads to benefits for the whole community. I share some points in this blog.


The longevity revolution and current demographics are pushing the Aging in Place agenda. Factors include:  More older people, older older people, fewer payers into the system, fewer family and informal caregivers and poor pay for the professionals, rising medical costs, reduced property values, health care reform. Aging is accompanied by increasing disability and need for assistance. Our homes become poor fits. The alternative is worse.

Rehab engineers Brand & Pope, in their book- Enabling America speak in terms of the new paradigm of disability in which ‘ability is a function of the interface of the individual and the environment and tools available to them’. This is similar to Powel Lawton’s environmental press model and the POE model (person/occupation/environment)  Debra spoke about, used by OT’s.

Livable Communities include appropriate and affordable housing, places to go and transportation to get there. This is similar to the features of walkable, green, sustainable cities. Sustainable means resources remain usable essentially indefinitely. Green housing, associated with sustainability..using less energy, reduces exposure to higher fuel prices..aiding the home’s sustainability for the occupant..shouldn’t it be accessible to absorb the physical changes of aging too?

Universal Design for homes and communities is the principle behind this type of thinking- design and products that are useful to as many people as possible…and this also means through the lifespan as people grow and change. (Physically I am a much different person than when I built this house twenty years ago…I doubt I could do it again!)

And there are corollary benefits to these things:

Walkable communities for those who don’t drive are good for kids on bikes, reducing nanny/parent trips and the energy used, getting people out on the streets…supporting local business and organizations.

Accessory apartments may mean additional income for one resident and a lower priced home for another helping diversify the neighborhood, also resulting in eyes on the street, some social connection between the two households and support of local business, etc.

I brought up Zachary Benedict/ The Petula Clark Postulate...relocating senior housing housing closer to town saves the rural/isolated senior housing operator money, improves connections for residents and supports marginal businesses in the town.

SO….. as it turns out: What helps our older citizens maintain their dignity, health, choice and control is good for the whole community. Conclusion: DO THE RIGHT THING!


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Aaron D. Murphy December 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

Well said Patrick. I’m really looking forward to (and honored to be) sharing a stage with you at the ASA Aging In America Conference this spring in Chicago. I can’t wait, it should be a lot of learning and a lot of fun!

Thanks again to you and Dr. Patrick Roden for the invitation!
Aaron D. Murphy, Managing Editor @ EtMM
EMPOWERING “Aging In Place” for Baby Boomers & their families.
Speaker, Educator, Radio Show Host –
Consultant, Author, Mentor & Coach
Ph: (360) 440-8475 Bainbridge Island, Wa. 98110

Owner / Licensed Architect & “Certified Aging In Place Specialist”
ADM Architecture – Poulsbo, Wa. 98370


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