As America’s infrastructure ages and requires replacement, city improvements are making it easier for seniors to get around town. While wider sidewalks and improved transportation options aren’t geared specifically toward the senior demographic, they do provide seniors assistance in ways that cities previously haven’t been able to offer.
Changes in Community Thinking
Many communities have begun taking the needs of older adults into account when designing repairs, offering more seniors the opportunity to remain in their homes and communities, even after their need for assistance increases.
The National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute have established a list of best practices from local and state governments that support aging in place, which essentially means making it easier for seniors to stay at home and live independently as they age. These include:
- Improved public transportation: Seniors who have mobility issues or can no longer drive may rely on public transportation for trips to the doctor, pharmacy, and grocery store. By increasing their ability to get to where they need to go safely and confidently, communities can better support these seniors.
- Offering community activities for seniors: Preventing depression and social isolation is key for many seniors. Staying active is important; community centers can help by offering exercise groups, special classes, and other events geared toward older adults.
City Improvements Mean Better Fall Prevention
Many common upgrades to city infrastructure can improve city living for the vast majority of seniors, even if that’s not the main intention behind such upgrades:
- New sidewalks: Those who struggle with mobility will get around more easily on a sidewalk that’s in good condition. Better sidewalks are great for fall prevention, because old, uneven sidewalks can pose a major hazard to seniors. Navigating a narrow sidewalk in a power chair or with a walker can be harrowing, but a wider sidewalk takes away much of the danger of dropping off the edge or not being able to pass obstacles.
- Ramps or inclines instead of steps: Ramps are routinely included on new sidewalks, allowing plenty of safe opportunities to get on and off in a wheelchair or on a motorized scooter. Many areas where steps may have been used in the past now offer gentle inclines that double as ramps. If new steps are installed, sturdy railings are often built into the design.
- Bike lanes: Keeping the faster, wheeled traffic off the sidewalk ensures that seniors are less likely to be hit by a speeding cyclist or skateboarder.
- Greenway paths: Using greenway paths to link areas of town that weren’t previously walkable is another popular city-design trend that lends itself to seniors. This can help put many seniors within walking distance of the stores and services that they need to get to.
A majority of seniors today want to remain in their own homes and communities, according to AARP. This goal, however, can be hampered by mobility issues and an increased fear or risk of falling that make it difficult to live independently. Luckily, many common city improvements taking place today offer safer options for seniors to get around in the city that they call home.
For seniors looking to maintain active, independent lifestyles, consider Lifeline’s GoSafe medical alert system — it gives you 24/7 access to help, whether you’re at home or on-the-go.