Creating Lifelong Communities

The growing elderly population in the United States is requiring policy-makers to adapt existing infrastructures and to develop new ones that will make people’s lives at ages 70, 80 and 90 an easier prospect. The authors discuss changes that federal, state and local communities have already made to improve the lives of the elderly, such as the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid and the Older Americans Act. They identify those people who affect the place and physical spaces in which we live, work and play as having an important role to play in planning for increased longevity. For example, seniors disconnected from basic services and transportation will not be able to fully engage in their communities.

The article describes one region’s response to meet current and future demands—the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). The Lifelong Communities Initiative developed by the ARC in 2007 includes devising programs, policies and funding strategies that allow older people to remain in their homes and communities. The program has three goals: (1) to promote new housing and transportation options; (2) to encourage healthy lifestyles; and (3) to expand information and access to resources that will help families plan for the future. Local partnerships have played a critical role in this initiative.