Gentrification’s Senior Partners

Source: urbanland.uli.org

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.

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