On Thursday, the National League of Cities released The 10 Critical Imperatives Facing Cities in 2014, its annual report highlighting ten of the most pressing issues facing cities across the United States. Partners board member and incoming NLC President, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker explained during the report's unveiling, "This is not a wish list just of cities. This is a wish list of the people who live in America. That’s 80 percent of the population of America that’s being represented through us."
The ten items on the list were:
Fragile Fiscal Health
Deteriorating Transportation Infrastructure
The Shrinking Middle Class
Inadequate Access to Higher Education
The Need for Affordable Housing
A Less-Than-Welcoming Return for Veterans
A Broken Immigration System
Climate Change and Extreme Weather
Lack of Public Trust
Click here to read the full report from NLC, which includes an overview of initiatives being taken by cities in their own efforts to tackle these ten challenges and create more livable communities for their residents.
SCOPE’s (Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence) mission is to connect and inspire citizens to create a better community. A private nonprofit, SCOPE is a convener, catalyst and facilitator, partnering with residents to generate collective action around issues affecting quality of life. It is fitting that Sarasota County, as the oldest in the nation and with 30 percent of its residents over 65, focuses considerable attention on aging. Founded in 2001, SCOPE collaborates with Sarasota County residents, elected officials, and community organizations to support broad-based undertakings led by citizens, to solve a variety of community concerns. Initiatives have addressed the environment, transportation, family violence, community change, and the needs of aging residents, to name just a few. All SCOPE activities address issues that strongly influence the quality of life in Sarasota County.
With Sarasota County’s large older adult population, it is not surprising that SCOPE’s perspective on aging is both positive and constructive. It views Sarasota County’s older adults as assets to and active participants in the community. In 2005, to examine the consequences of aging, the opportunities and challenges, SCOPE launched the initiative Aging: The Possibilities. Over 900 residents participated in many discussions, and presentations by experts covered a range of issues relevant to community planning for aging residents—and on their great capacity for enhancing the quality of life in Sarasota County.
Culture Bus is at once a transportation service to arts and cultural events for older adults, and a unique treatment program for early-stage dementia patients. One of many adult day programs offered by CJE SeniorLife, in Chicago, Illinois, Culture Bus provides opportunities for socialization, creative expression, and intellectual stimulation designed to improve the quality of life and slow the effects of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease for many older adults.
The Culture Bus emerged, in 2002, from an Alzheimer’s support group sponsored by Northwestern University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center. Its participants were seeking more time together and opportunities for intellectual and social engagement. One member of the group suggested using a bus to enable everyone to go downtown together. The Northwestern staff immediately saw the value in this idea, and reached out to CJE, a local leader in adult-day programming, to discuss a partnership.
Now a network of 117 higher education institutions spread across the country, Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) offer college-level courses designed to appeal to the interests and experience of older adults. OLLI programs are adapted to the needs and desires of the communities they serve, but they benefit from OLLI’s National Resource Center, which provides a network for sharing innovations in lifelong learning and also sponsors an annual conference. The institutions comprising OLLI range from top research universities to community colleges, and all provide unique programs.
Duke University’s is one of the most successful Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes in the country. The program began as the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement, which was founded in 1977 as a joint venture between Duke Continuing Education and the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Duke became one of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes in 2004.
In his recent mayoral address to Salt Lake City, Partners trustee Ralph Becker announced his plans to construct a new light rail system in a broad attempt to “move Salt Lake forward despite tough economic times (Becker, 01/04/11).” Throughout his speech, Mayor Becker highlighted the role in which light rail transit could enable the city to enhance civic assets ranging from small and vibrant businesses to that of the locally treasured neighborhood known as the Sugar House. With the help of a $26 million federal grant, Mayor Becker has continued forward on his ambitious plans to bring back the street cars of the city by first constructing the Sugar House line and expanding the lines beyond the limits and into downtown Salt Lake.
With the year 2011 nearly upon us—a period when the first of the Baby Boomers will officially reach the age of retirement— the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) addressed the issue of a growing older population by holding the first “Safety, Mobility and Aging Drivers” forum on November 9th and 10th. According to the Washington Post article, “The American Driver Turns to Gray,” officials from the NTSB have stated that, “the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to double in the next three decades;” a number that is expected to reach 1 in 5 by 2015 (Washington Post, November 10, 2010).
While the NTSB is well-known for the proactive measures the organization takes towards transportation safety, this forum was the first time in which the NTSB has shifted policy direction in order to explore possible preparations and limitations related to the aging driver and personal transportation.
Walk Score has launched new neighborhood “heat” maps for over 2,500 cities and 6,000 neighborhoods which show graphically just how walkable they really are. Instead of the numerical scale that rates a location’s pedestrian friendliness from “Car Dependent” to “Walker’s Paradise,” Walk Score has developed a new system that incorporates heat maps showing where cities are more or less walkable. The greener the area, the easier one will find it to get from one place to another without the aid of an automobile.
These maps have potential to become powerful research tools for policy makers looking to make their regions more livable and sustainable by allowing them to see where areas are less accessible. Walkable cities are livable cities because they offer people alternative transportation options to driving from place to place. Walking and walkable neighborhoods offer many positives for improved health and community involvement all contributing to the creation of livable communities.
Eight organizations and partnerships in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties were each awarded a "JumpStart the Conversation" grant on February 2, 2009.
The winning projects exemplify the use of innovative ideas focused on creating livable communities for all ages and theme of "transportation and mobility options". These strategies are aimed at the over 11 percent of residents age 65 and over in the two counties, and will encourage services that strengthen "aging in place" and increases accessibility to transportation and fosters independence among older adults.
The North County Citizens Association To discuss a pickup service, with the purpose of allowing older citizens unable to drive or access transportation to conduct necessary tasks such as doctor’s appointments and trips to the grocery store. The NCCA is a voluntary organization dedicated to improving the community. Many of its members are senior citizens, and this program would be an avenue for the community to give back to them.
Miami Lakes Town Foundation in partnership with The Alliance for Aging, Inc. To hold a series of community meetings to evaluate the transportation needs of older adults in the Miami Lakes area. The forums will be held once a month over a four month period and will encourage dialogue surrounding the issues of town public transportation, Miami-Dade county Public Transportation, as well as existing and planned trail systems. The goal is to develop a strategy that will best coordinate accessibility to existing and planned programs, services and facilities to the aging population.
The City of Coral Gables in partnership with The Alliance for Aging, Inc. To implement a pilot program of subsidized taxicab fares for people ages 65 and over. Seniors would be able to purchase coupons at Coral Gables City Hall and the Coral Gables Youth Center. These facilities are both accessible and well known to residents of the city. It is the hope that this program will demonstrate an efficient way for seniors to use existing transportation systems while still having the flexibility and independence associated with driving one’s own vehicle
The Miami Behavioral Health Center (MBHC) To promote a “Mobility Maps” program to seniors in the Miami-Dade area. “Mobility Maps” will alert seniors to different transportation options based on their own specific transportation needs. Each individual mobility map will provide descriptions of possible destinations as well as different methods of getting to each locale. In addition to providing group sessions to create these maps, which can also serve to create social networks and improve psychosocial functioning, the MBHC will provide training to aging agencies and health service providers to maximize the number of seniors benefitting from this program.
The William Lehman Injury Research Center To improve a multi-faceted safe crossings program in response to Miami being ranked the third highest county in regards to pedestrian injuries. The research center plans on using education, promotional and cultural materials to address the issue specifically in regards to the over 65 population. Current materials will also be translated in Spanish and Creole in order to increase the scope of the project across language barriers.
The County of Monroe in partnership with The Alliance for Aging, Inc. To investigate a solution to inefficient transportation (especially for older adults and pedestrians) between Monroe County and the Florida Keys. Three planning sessions will be held to brainstorm ideas, including ways to make transportation more “green” and cost effective.
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind in partnership with The Alliance for Aging, Inc. To explore and implement a community based independent transportation network (ITN) in Miami-Dade County. Using a combination of both paid and volunteer drivers, the ITN will be available 24-hours a day to transport seniors to local destinations. After a series of meetings, a pilot community will be chosen to serve as an example of increase senior mobility that can be implemented citywide.
The Alliance for Aging, Inc. To engage local and national experts on issues of senior transportation access in Miami-Dade, and to incorporate these issues into the county’s master transportation plan. Three meetings will be hosted over a 6-month period and will focus on pedestrian needs and planning, and roadway improvement. The meetings will serve as a follow-up to the Aging in Place workshop in November, with the goal of engaging traffic engineers and key stakeholders in issues related to aging and the public infrastructure, highlighting best practices in community transportation, and encouraging dialogue that will lead to positive changes.
Real Estate may save us after all, say strategists Christopher Leinberger and Patrick Doherty, but only if it responds to a growing demand for walkable, dynamic neighborhoods. Real estate represents 35% of our economy’s asset base, so its recovery is essential to the country’s “economic renaissance.” However, write Leinberger and Doherty in a recent article, changing housing preferences driven by Millennials and aging baby boomers will make that recovery look quite different than previous decades:
In the fight for livability, sometimes advocates can forget about those who are happily living in environments that others would deem “unlivable”: sprawling, car-dependent suburbs. If it’s all about making our lives more livable, “shouldn’t we be able to choose the sprawling suburbs if we want to?” asked a participant at the Partners’ “Building Livable Communities” Forum in September 2010. Well, yes, replied the panelists, but it’s not that easy. “Choosing” sprawl is not always the free choice that many believe it to be.
"Livable Communities for All Ages" is a thoughtful brochure that reflects years of expertise and findings, as well as resources and case studies, on how all facets of the community can contribute to a more “older adult –friendly” environment. Download here
With the goal of promoting safer and affordable communities, "Livable Communities for All Ages" features a specific guide on which aspects of civic life—whether the local Chamber of Commerce or an individual— can respond to the maturing of America with instructive measures on the benefits of older adult livability adaptations in four areas:
Columnist Neal Pierce reports on the success of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the new federal collaboration of DOT, EPA, and HUD that has awarded a series of grants to communities "for roads and housing and environmental protection."
On September 22, 2010, at the Building Livable Communities forum , Beth Osborne, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation Policy at USDOT and James Lopez, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary at HUD, answered some questions about the new HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership should be seen as a model or case study for other government agencies. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities does not need to be the only interagency government partnership focused on the development of livable communities.
Osborne and Lopez explained why only HUD, DOT, and EPA were involved and pointed to some of the logistical problems that have arisen in the developing of the Partnership. Simple communication between agencies is made difficult with modern email firewalls and other cyber security screening processes. Also, when you have too many people working on the same issue, efficiencies break down and it becomes difficult to please everyone. There is a saying, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup.” In other words, too many people working on a single project can ruin it. Minimizing these difficulties improves the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the collaboration.
“We care about creating livable communities because it saves people money.” Beth Osborne, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy at the US Department of Transportation (DOT) was quick to bring attention to the economic benefits of livability at Partners’ “Building Livable Communities” forum on September 22.
Osborne estimated that creating livable communities could save the average household about 12-20% in annual expenses, with much of that savings coming from transportation. Livable communities aim to give individuals the option to spend less on transportation by allowing more cost effective methods such as public transit, walking or biking. According to the bureau of labor statistics, in 2004 the average household spent 19% of their income on transportation, while those in auto-dependent exurbs spent 25%. In contrast, households in transit rich neighborhoods spent just 9% of their income on transportation (on average, each of these household types spent an equal proportion on housing).
Older adults face limited access to mobility alternatives when public busses are more of an inconvenience then the city had originally intended. For one, city bus routes are often mapped out mainly for commuters, taking riders to the commercial center for work and back out to the suburbs. This often necessitates long and unnecessary trips with transfers to travel around the urban fringe. In addition, buses to the commercial center can be in such a hurry they begin to move before the passenger can even begin to balance and sit down.
The American Society of Landscape Architect’s weekly blog, “The Dirt: Connecting the Built and Natural Environments,” posts detailed highlights from “Building Livable Communities: Creating a Common Agenda,” Partner’s recent Forum in collaboration with the Hirshhorn Museum. Recapping the panel of Federal officials including HUD, DOT, and their overlapping agendas to create an “infrastructure for livability” through “interdependencies,” the blog also includes highlights from the speakers representing local government, non for profit agencies, and corporate entities. The Dirt showcases some of the newest ideas and agendas surrounding the national livability framework presented at the forum. Read about it here
This new report from CEOs for Cities, Driven Apart, shows that the solution to our traffic problems has more to do with how we build our cities than how we build our roads. The Urban Mobility Report produced by the Texas Transportation Institute presents a distorted picture of the causes and the extent of urban transportation problems, concealing the role that sprawl plays in lengthening travel times, and effectively penalizing compact cities. We need new and better measures of transportation system performance that emphasize accessibility, rather than just speed.
Download the full Press Relase, Executive Summary and Report here
Last month, the New York State Senate passed legislation to mandate the development of bicycle and pedestrian paths with any new or reconstructed public road. This bill is crucial since New York is among the states with the most dangerous streets, particularly for young children and older adults. Certainly a step in the right direction, for this policy to be effective, it must be expanded to include all roads, to encourage greater levels of physical activity and ensure safety for all. In order to understand the magnitude of this first legislative step, it is helpful to understand the events which have led up to the current problem for pedestrians.
Under the Eisenhower administration, the construction of the highway system allowed for increased opportunities for both trade and interstate travel. This, in turn, created a trend towards design which catered to our most prominent mode of transportation, the automobile. However, as an unintended consequence, health and walkability issues increased.
Over the past few decades, many groups, such as AARP and Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance, have advocated for increased bicycle and pedestrian pathways for healthier and safer transportation alternatives. As a result, this transportation movement has led to campaigns such as Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets. While these efforts began as safety measures for school children, they have evolved into ones which encompass the ideals of Aging in Place, Healthy Communities, and Smart Growth.
In 2008, Project for Public Spaces collaborated with AARP to create and publish a set of documents that would provide the elderly with the knowledge and tools needed to successfully interact with their local Department of Transportation. The processes involved with addressing concerns about local infrastructure can be intimidating if one does not have a clear understanding of how they system operates. A person may become frustrated when he or she feels their opinion on a matter has not been heard.