Our growing population of older adults is facing housing challenges. Creative solutions are beginning to find a foothold. Ryan Frederick, an expert on housing and the role of place in healthy aging, looks at how those solutions could be used to simultaneously address issues of climate change in a Generations Journal article, published by the American Society on Aging.
“As a real estate developer and advisor to real estate developers, I see a valuable opportunity to rise to this challenge by developing communities that appeal to the needs and desires of older adults and incorporate design that is eco-friendly and climate change resilient,” said Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360 and a Nexus Insights Fellow. “As a concerned citizen, I know this challenge is urgent.”
Where people live has a big impact on their well-being, according to Frederick. “The best place elevates purpose, social connection, physical well-being, and financial well-being. Place can be designed to support our needs as we age and help insulate us from the perils of climate change.”
But he pointed to a variety of issues that make it difficult for people to age in place, including:
- Housing that is designed for younger people without mobility issues. The statistics are striking. According to Frederick, “Only about 4% of all housing stock in the United States is suitable for people with moderate mobility difficulties.”
- Single-use neighborhoods without convenient access to needed services and amenities. “Too much housing requires transportation to get to services and a lack of density makes it inefficient for services to come to the home.”
- Social disconnectedness. “About half of older adults don’t know any of their neighbors,” he said.
In the article, Frederick offered actionable ideas to help communities address these issues, including:
- Incentives for incorporating universal design principles in all new housing, which both emphasize the use of eco-friendly materials, and reduce the need for retrofitting as residents in the home age.
- Housing developments that work for people of all ages, to help foster intergenerational connections, and reduce loneliness across all ages. Frederick pointed out the cost incentive for landlords: vacancies are reduced when older adults can remain in their housing even as their physical needs change.
- Housing design that reflects the role of the home as a place where people increasingly receive their health care.
- Choosing locations for housing that are less prone to disasters such as flooding and wildfires and therefore are more resilient to climate change.
- Designing neighborhoods for walkability. Reducing the need for car travel is both age-friendly and eco-friendly.
“Ultimately, as a society and as individuals, we will be defined by our legacy,” Frederick observed. “How did we positively impact the generations following us?”
Read the full article in Generations by the American Society on Aging.
Ryan Frederick, MBA, is the CEO of SmartLiving 360, an Austin, Texas–based strategy consulting and real estate development firm focused on the intersection of successful aging and the built environment. He is the author of Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life. He is an Encore Public Voices Fellow, a Nexus Insights Fellow and National Advisory Board Member for Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.
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