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Why Aging in Place Faces Serious Challenges

by Published On: Dec 18, 2011
Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices

Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices, a new AARP state survey on aging in place, highlights challenges for seniors wishing to age in place, specifically attributing major problems to: 

  • Unsupportive community design.
  • Unaffordable and inaccessible housing.
  • A lack of access to needed services. 

Unless there are significant changes in how communities are constructed and what services are offered, says the report, many older adults will find it increasingly difficult to live in their communities and may have to consider institutional care.

The report identifies the following land use, transportation, and housing policies as well as promising state practices that enable aging in place.

Land Use

  • Integrating land use and transportation planning to reduce reliance on automobile travel. California, Florida, and Washington are among the states with statutes requiring this.
  • Implementing transit-oriented development within a quarter- or a half-mile from a transit stop. Statutes in at least 12 states, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Utah, address this issue.
  • Encouraging joint use of community facilities such as a senior center or health clinic in a school. Promising practices include those in California and Wyoming.


  • Designing “Complete Streets” to enable all users, regardless of age or ability, to get to where they want to go. 25 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico have complete streets policies, 16 of which state legislatures enacted.
  • Ensuring pedestrian safety given the vulnerability of older adults in vehicle and pedestrian fatalities. At least 10 states have considered “vulnerable users” laws within the past 5 years to better protect pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Ensuring access to services in rural areas. States such as Idaho and Montana have policies that address access to services for people who live a significant distance from city centers.
  • Improving human service transportation coordination to more efficiently use limited resources. Twenty-eight states have coordinating councils, 14 of which were created by statute and 14 by governor’s executive order or initiative.
  • Enacting volunteer driver laws to protect volunteer drivers from civil liability. Only Georgia and Oregon explicitly protect volunteer drivers.


  • Accessing the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program to leverage funds for development of housing near transit and in livable community settings. These states include Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, and New Jersey.
  • Encouraging developers to use building standards that promote accessibility. At least 3 states—Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Texas—have these statutes.
  • Promoting aging in place by supporting neighborhoods with large populations of older adults involved in social and community life. Promising practices include models to provide services at home such as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities and Communities for a Lifetime.


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