In April, the AARP’s Public Policy Institute teamed up with Streetfilms to make a five-minute film for the AARP website about transit-oriented development (TOD) and its positive effects for seniors (video below).
Caring for elderly parents is a hot topic, since many baby boomers are now dealing with the issues surrounding such senior care, and these issues aren’t going away any time soon. As the baby boom generation ages, the responsibilities will shift to the next generation, their children. The beauty of the AARP and Streetfilms (a nonprofit organization that promotes “livable street planning”) collaboration was that they addressed the importance of transit-oriented development for the elderly, and by extension, the environment.
TOD plans communities around public transportation. The planning is specifically formulated to encourage active living for all ages, but is focused on keeping seniors independent and engaged in their communities. If you think about the daily routine of a senior citizen, the biggest need many of them cannot fulfill on their own is for transportation.
Mobility is a major concern for the aging person individually and as part of their family. Rather than rely on a family member to chauffeur them around to the store or to doctors’ appointments, a senior citizen can access their community’s ground transportation. This retains the senior’s self-esteem and their independence.
In the AARP film, a community in Arlington, Virginia is highlighted as an example of TOD living. Elderly residents are interviewed and encouraged to speak about their daily lives and how their activities hinge upon having access to public transportation. With a fifteen minute bus ride, senior citizens have access to entertainment, recreation facilities, and basic services like medical services and shopping. The Arlington community is planned as a walkable, mixed-use community that gives ready access to transportation for all its residents.
For one of the senior citizens interviewed, she is able to visit a community center that offers a variety of art classes. As a potter, it was very important to her quality of life that she be able to pursue her art. Even though she had to downsize after her husband’s death, she can take a short bus ride to the art center for classes. While younger people may take it for granted, she viewed taking the bus and mastering public transit as a significant accomplishment. To an octogenarian, mobility was extremely important to her.
The TOD planning doesn’t only benefit seniors. The families that care for aging relatives will feel less of a strain financially if their parents can get around as needed on their own. And a reliance on public transportation means fewer cars, less mileage traveled, and less gasoline used. The environment benefits from this, too. Careful planning around transportation hubs means less urban sprawl and the reuse of existing buildings and systems.
There’s also the opportunity for urban revitalization and further utilization. It’s taking what already exists and making it better and more livable for all of its citizens. Hopefully, more communities, like the Bay Club Bayside, will adopt the TOD planning perspective to benefit all its residents and the environment at the same time.
Photo Credit: Matt Carmen
Chris Keenan is a green and general blog writer. He also maintains a personal cooking blog.