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Growing old in suburbia

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Most of us are going to spend our retirement where we spent our working lives -- in suburbia.

That's why John McIlwain, senior resident fellow for the think tank Urban Land Institute, believes that all of us suburbanites who are focused on retirement planning should consider these steps to make where we live more retirement-friendly.

  • Push for sidewalks. Without sidewalks, a community isn't walkable and having to drive everywhere will limit us as we age.
  • Advocate up-to-date public transportation. Not just buses that run the same routes every day. What we really want is readily available transit to the places we need to go. That can include golf cart and tricycle routes as well as cars and vans that come when called.
  • Lobby for more commercial zoning. Neighborhood shops and medical care can make life much simpler.
  • Open your mind to multifamily housing. If your neighborhood allows two-family units, you can rent out the parts of that big, old house that you don't need. This zoning can also pave the way for a caregiver to move in.
  • Make the senior/community center relevant. Today's over-60s aren't terribly interested in shuffleboard. The programming at recreation centers should change to reflect that, and we should be aware and involved in making that change.
  • Make the neighborhood age-friendly. Add benches (designed to discourage the homeless from sleeping there). Increase the timing of walk signs to give people more time to get across the street. Add a median to wide streets so walkers only have to go halfway.
  • Ban the word "senior." We're not "seniors," we're just older than we used to be. Make municipal communications reflect that.

The most expensive part of this is finding money to help people maintain their aging homes, says McIlwain. "Homes deteriorate faster with older people in them. It is something that the whole community needs to watch out for. You don't want roofs to leak, and you want the grass to be cut," he says.

Figuring out how to pay for that could be the biggest challenge to staying put.

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6 Comments
J.L.Sexton
January 02, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I AGREE WITH 90% OF THIS, I LIVE IN ORANGE COUNTY NY, COMPLETELY UN-FRIENDLY TO SENIORS, I ALSO WOULD MOVE TO A TOWN HOME OR CONDO "IF" THEY WERE SOMEWHAT REASONABLE & HAD GARAGES, AS IN, "TWO" & WERE CLOSE TO SHOPPING & SUCH. AS FAR AS THE CITY ATTITUDE, I LOVED NYC BUT THE CHANGES MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO RAISE CHILDREN IN A FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT, SO I MOVED AS DID MOST REGULAR WORKING PEOPLE. AS FAR AS THEM SUPPORTING US, I REALLY THINK SOMEONE IS VERY CONFUSED.

gerry forsterDecember 30, 2012 at 7:38 pmI would like to stay in this neighborhood I have lived in for 40 years and where all my friends and activities are BUT my house is the 2 story house where I raised my family and way too big now. I want to move to a condo or a small single story house (with an attached garage) in the area but there are none. The new houses being built now are all McMansions. Many of my neighbors say the same thing. Housing is my biggest problem. I would settle for a rental unit if it was disabled-friendly.

gerry forster
December 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I would like to stay in this neighborhood I have lived in for 40 years and where all my friends and activities are BUT my house is the 2 story house where I raised my family and way too big now. I want to move to a condo or a small single story house (with an attached garage) in the area but there are none. The new houses being built now are all McMansions. Many of my neighbors say the same thing. Housing is my biggest problem. I would settle for a rental unit if it was disabled-friendly.

KJ
December 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Indeed AM is a complete selfish, self-centered, immature (and obviously not over 30) fool (and yes he is right on ONE thing- he IS "completely cold and heartless"). I am 48 and am not a senior citizen but am in that in between age where I'm paying taxes for those stupid "AM"s out there with kids where I never had and at this point in time never will have kids and so "to be completely cold and heartless" why should I pay school taxes for some stupid AMs out there with kids that obviously based on his cold and heartless posting is a complete fool and failure of parent and therefore because his kids will grow up to be criminals yet again why should i pay for them to sit worthlessly in JAIL?! AM go to HELL.

Tom
December 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm

To be completely objective--the American suburban lifestyle is NOT conducive to the elderly. Putting in sidewalks is nice--if it's more than a 10-minute walk (0.5 miles), it's too far to walk. Sorry.

Public transporation is effective in densely populated urban/suburban areas, not where people are spread out. Sorry.

The elderly become worse drivers,if they can drive. They can't keep up the houses--and they will have a hard time (overall) finding money to pay others to do so.

Those are the side effects of cheap gasoline and suburban sprawl--it WAS good from the 50s to the 70s, but it's not sustainable--and the exurbs built in the 90s even less so.

Oh, and more of the seniors of the future will be single or childless or in blended families, so they probably won't enjoy the level of family support seniors currently may have.

I have no good easy answers, by the way. If the nuclear family had held up better, and we had preserved our cities (ie not subsidized suburbia), perhaps things would look better.

dynamo
December 29, 2012 at 8:54 am

AM, you are an idiot and you need a brain, a heart and courage. You country bumpkins can have your nasty racist, classist opinions but it all boils down to you be SELFISH, SELF CENTERED, NARCISSISTIC and sociopathic.

Those of us who live in BIG URBAN AREAS have PAID FOR EVERYTHING THAT YOU USE AND ENJOY. Show a little respect. Furthermore, WE in the BIG CITIES are going to dictate what YOU GET because we have MOST OF THE MONEY and you can keep your country bumpkin junk.

AM
December 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm

To be completely cold and heartless - The community is supposed to pay for upgrades that encourage seniors, uh sorry, people who are older than they used to be, to stay in homes that they can't afford to upkeep designed around lifestyles of younger families with cars?

Yikes. If upkeep is unaffordable and you don't have a car, then you need to move, not demand that the community spend thousands of dollars to support your lifestyle choice.