I’ve spent a lot of time in recent weeks looking at gentrification from various angles, and like with a lot of topics I take on, it becomes an obsession. My recent focus has been on how today’s urban-oriented and middle income young adults could, by virtue of their proximity to low income communities, act as a catalyst to expanded economic opportunities for low income residents, particularly minorities. However, if young urban Millenials (now there’s an acronym for you, Yummies) are looking for a partner demographic that could help them establish the urban living style they desire, perhaps they should consider seniors as part of the puzzle.
The AARP’s Public Policy Institute released a report last month that explored community living preferences for older adults and seniors. Two things stand out among older adults, and they have ramifications for young adult urbanists:
- Most of the 50+ population want to age in their homes and communities.
- The importance of proximity to community elements varies greatly.
The report goes on to discuss particular physical and non-physical amenities that are important to older adults. Bus stops, grocery stores, parks and pharmacies lead the way on the physical side. On the non-physical side, older adults say they would like to see several things of critical importance to young urbanists — a pedestrian-friendly environment and more transportation options.
I acknowledge that not all parts of all major cities will not benefit from gentrification, nor should they. I also acknowledge that many suburbs, already the home of many seniors who wish to stay exactly where they are, are also primed for a makeover that could make them more attractive to young adults as well. Partnerships between young adults seeking a vibrant yet smaller-scaled urban environment, and older adults seeking a more pedestrian-oriented environment that serves their needs, might lead to the kind of transformation our suburbs need.