Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Creating Great Places To Age

Recent Census Bureau projections indicate that by as soon as 2035, for the first time ever, there will be more people in the U.S. over the age of 65 than under 18. Communities with such features as a mix of uses accessible to those who don’t drive, physical and social activities, amenities such as parks and safe streets, and a mix of appropriate and affordable housing options, are places where older residents can thrive. However, many communities in New Jersey, which has the 10th largest number of residents age 60 and older in the nation, fail to offer these attributes.

Palmer Square in Princeton. The town is the first in New Jersey to receive the World Health Organization’s Aging-Friendly designation.

Where do older residents want to live? According to surveys, most people want to stay in their communities as they get older. It’s where their social connections, medical professionals, houses of worship, and other resources and amenities are. Some people want to stay in the same house they’ve been in since they moved to the community; others may want to move to a different residence in the same town.

What do older residents need? As people age, their mobility needs may change. Many people will eventually reduce their driving, or stop altogether, making the ability to get to various destinations without a car very important. That means putting these destinations in close proximity to each other, and within easy walking or cycling reach of local residents. Some people may choose to move — from a larger single-family home to a smaller house, townhouse or apartment, closer to all the destinations they need to reach, and perhaps easier to navigate and maintain.

How prepared are New Jersey communities to meet this need? New Jersey Future has scored every municipality on three criteria that together serve as a general indicator of how well a town is positioned to meet these changing needs — whether it has a recognizable downtown or Main Street with a variety of establishments; how many typical destinations there are per square mile; and how connected the street network is. A greater number and variety of destinations per square mile makes it easier for people to accomplish daily tasks efficiently, and a well connected street network makes it easier to reach these destinations by means other than cars.

Unfortunately, the places in New Jersey where the largest numbers of older residents live are not places well positioned to meet their changing mobility needs. In New Jersey, almost half a million people aged 55 and older, or approximately 21% of all older residents in New Jersey, live in areas that scored low on all four aging-friendliness indicators. This means these residents are more dependent on a vehicle to accomplish daily tasks. The number of people who are set to grow older in car-dependent communities is projected to rise, bringing with it greater demand for transportation services and risk of greater social isolation as a result of reduced mobility.

A large number of New Jersey’s older residents are also housing cost-burdened, which means they are paying more than 30% of their income for their housing. This happens for a variety of reasons: retirement income tends to be lower than employment income while housing costs typically stay the same or rise, and a low number of the kinds of homes older people want — townhouses or apartments within walking distance of daily tasks — makes the existing supply expensive. This means older residents who would like to move to different — perhaps less expensive and more accommodating — housing cannot afford to.

What We’re Doing
With support from The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation and the Community Foundation of South Jersey’s Aging Innovation Fund, New Jersey Future is working with several communities to:

  • Inform local officials and residents about what aging-friendly features are and how they enhance the economic as well as social character of their towns;
  • Provide a snapshot of the current status of their older residents and the aging-friendliness of their community by conducting land use assessments; 
  • Assist municipalities in the implementation of aging-friendly strategies, including ways to:
    • Enhance any downtown, main street or town center to increase the number of amenities in close proximity and make it easier for pedestrians to travel among them;
    • Provide more housing and more appropriate housing types to enable older residents to remain living in their communities;
    • Improve the extent and quality of their pedestrian systems to expand access to destinations such as open spaces or community facilities without having to use a car; and
    • Modify land use regulations to support aging-friendly community form. 

Learn more about the importance of aging-friendly communities and our work with New Jersey towns in the December 2020 issue of New Jersey Municipalities Magazine.

For more information on New Jersey Future’s work in helping to create great aging-friendly places, please contact Community Planning Manager Tanya Rohrbach.

New Jersey Future Aging-Friendly Reports

P2A2 coverPlaces To Age

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Jersey Future Aging-Friendly Land-Use Assessments

New Jersey Future Aging-Friendly Land-Use Implementation Plans

Resources for Local Aging-Friendly Community Building

Aging-Friendly Partners

New Jersey Future Blog 

Helping towns design for all ages: New Jersey Future’s aging-friendly program is gaining momentum

A summary of milestones recently achieved by a number of towns New Jersey Future is working with to implement aging-friendly land use goals.

Older Homeowners in Car-Dependent Suburbs Face Difficulty Downsizing

Older adults in New Jersey looking to sell their homes—most of which are single-family detached houses—as younger generations continue to prefer smaller homes in walkable communities.

New Jersey Future Releases Guide to Implementing Aging-Friendly Land Use Decisions

New Jersey Future, with funding from The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, developed Creating Great Places to Age in New Jersey: A Community Guide to Implementing Aging-Friendly Land Use Decisions to provide local communities with a step-by-step process to design their towns for the needs of older adults.

Visualizing an Aging-Friendly Built Environment for Implementation in Ridgewood Village

New Jersey Future partnered with the Village of Ridgewood to develop an aging-friendly land use implementation plan, and now a graduate design studio class at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University is helping to move it along.

A Guide to Diversifying Housing Options for an Aging Population

A new report by New Jersey Future, Municipal Strategies to Diversify Housing Stock for an Aging Population: A Case Study Report, is part of New Jersey Future’s Creating Great Places to Age program.

See all New Jersey Future Blog posts and articles in this category »
 

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