AARP Launches Tool to Create Age-Friendly Communities

The preference to age in place continues to grows, but doing so in certain communities may be more challenging than in others. 

With the help of a new tool launched by AARP, consumers and city planners can identify these areas and take steps to make them more livable for Americans across the age spectrum.

The “Livability Index” allows users to search specific geographic areas to measure the quality of life in communities across seven dimensions: housing, transportation, neighborhood characteristics, environment, health, opportunity and engagement.

“We created it based on the needs and preferences of older Americans, but the goal is to create communities for all ages,” said Debra Whitman, AARP’s chief public policy officer, at the American Planning Association (APA) conference last week. “We see this as a catalyst for change and action, both when we’re planning and investing in making changes, to see where those investments can have the biggest impact.”

In total, there are about 50 different measures that encompass the Index, and ultimately determine a community’s Livability Score. The scores range from 0 to 100, although the average score in the U.S. is 50, Whitman says.

Designed as an interactive website, the Index allows users to not only compare communities, but also adjust scores based on their personal preferences and learn how to take action to make their communities more livable.

Within each of the seven categories are “policies” and “resources” tabs, which provide users with additional information on the respective scores the categories received. With this information, users can better plan what actions to take to transform their communities.

“Our ultimate goal is to be using this tool … to change the dynamics of our aging society,” Whitman said.

The Livability Index is part of AARP’s broader initiative to create a nationwide network of age-friendly communities — a model that champions older residents’ needs and requires mayors and city councils to commit to developing a plan centered around criteria similar to that in the Index: health, transportation, housing, outdoor space, social participation, social inclusion, civic engagement and communication.

Currently there are 52 U.S. cities in the network, representing roughly 30 million Americans.

Access the Livability Index here.

Written by Emily Study