TRANSPORTATION and LOCATION, the Keys to SURVIVAL in an Aging America

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There’s a great short video series out by AARP discussing “The Future of HOME Sweet HOME”, with one episode addressing the housing portion, and another addressing transportation.  I appreciate both messages in the videos, and I regularly address the home portion of “Aging-In-Place” in our own blogs.

Today I want to focus more OUTSIDE the front door, and beyond your own mailbox & curb.  Mr. Louis Tenenbaum talks in a recent blog of his about the need to “not design in SILOS”, and for our industries to recognize, in relation to addressing the Silver Tsunami of our aging America, that we all overlap in relevant and significant ways that require collaboration vs. territorial views on any sort of boundaries between us.  Take for example HOUSING.  Does it work for Older Americans without TRANSPORTATION resolutions in conjunction?  No.  Does “Aging-In-Place” work without some combination for safety related to in-home monitoring or IN-HOME HEALTH CARE and/or non-medical care for adults ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living)?  No, it does not.

I just had a similar conversation today in introducing my architecture firm to a local developer and construction company.  The owner of the company is 73, and his wife is 65 (and she’s still winning national events in swimming for her age bracket!)  But, regardless of her being in fantastic shape, he knows they want to move closer to town with their next house, which they are beginning to discuss now.  Therefore he and I, as businesses, are discussing a development project together on a parcel of land he owns outside of Seattle, Wa. for a residential community that would suit exactly that need for he and his wife, as they think about their own upcoming 10-20 years ahead.  He had a clear understanding of the value we could bring to the team, and a clear vision of what could be better and different in a small community development near town and on transit lines.  We even discussed the idea of shuttle bus services as a part of the operations of the units and complex of homes, or possibly a share limo service fleet for the home owners, to take them shopping, to doctors appointments, and even to social events together!  It was a great conversation, and I’m excited to see where it leads us in our opportunity to work together professionally!

We must all evolve TOGETHER as industries. We are all in a brand new place.  Creating 30 new years of life longevity in just the last 100 years is more life extension that we’ve experienced in the previous 5,000 years combined!  So of course we are all struggling, searching, grasping, and wrangling with ideas and brainstorms and business ventures that can help solve the new problems and challenges we have never faced before in history.  Of course it’s hard work.  Of course there is some trial and error.  Of course it pushes against old paradigms, asks for shifts, and gets resistance!  This is a WHOLE NEW WORLD we are moving into, starting in January 2011 when 10,000 people started turning 65 years old EVERY DAY!  That’s our new reality for the next 20-30 years, and it will have impacts that resonate in our society beyond the next century to come.

We must work TOGETHER toward solutions that encompass all facets of an aging person’s wants, needs, and rights.  We must COLLABORATE for the best design solutions of our clients whether that be housing, medical care, transportation, social opportunity & combating isolation, property maintenance, pet care, health and wellness, exercise and nutrition, the list goes on…

We’ve spoken to our own city council, and been asked to coordinate with our lead planner at the building department to help create some placeholders to discuss possible code changes and zoning flexibility that would create incentives for new development and builders to have a portion of their housing being considerate and forward-thinking enough to be planning for our own communities to address “age-friendly” and “adaptable” design for the future in the house, on the street, and throughout the towns and cities we all want to grow older in, safely and independently.

So do some figurative “reaching across the aisle”, not in a political sense, but in an industry overlap recognition sense.  If we don’t all make it happen TOGETHER, we’ll never all make it happen ALONE.  This is the one place I’d say we need to drop the word INDEPENDENT (even though that’s the term for the goal of Aging-in-Place), and start working TOGETHER, as TEAMS for the best outcome of our house, street, neighborhood, town/city and our great nation here in the U.S. and abroad as well.

Image Credits:
Wooden Silo –
Bench w/ City View – 
Holding Hands –

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