Thursday, July 15, 2010

Urban planning for seniors

Currently I'm reading The Geography of Aging (McGill/Queen's, 2010) by urban planner Gerald Hodge. Its subtitle is "Preparing Communities for the Surge in Seniors." I intend to review this book at some length for an "off-line"/newsprint publication one of these days. In the meantime, let me recommend it to citizens of all ages, including those of mature years who are concerned about the future.

"Not infrequently, the surging numbers of seniors after 2011 are portrayed as a social problem of catastrophic proportions," Hodge writes (p. 187) This perspective has been branded 'apocalyptic demography' by Canadian and other gerontologists, who point out the fallacies of looking only at the numbers of seniors and drawing conclusions. Many other factors are at work, such as the productivity of the economy, the uses of medical technologies, the increasing good health of seniors themselves, which need to be taken into account in reckoning the consequences of an aging population."

Hodge quotes the National Advisory Council on Aging to the effect that most communities tend NOT to have "enabling environments" which will allow older adults to "age in place" or cope with a minimum of assistance into their old age.

"Many seniors encounter obstacles in the areas of housing, transportation and community services, as well as negative attitudes about the elderly that reinforce the physical barriers," he writes. Very few communities in Canada have initiated plans for their seniors populations, he says.

"The Geography of Aging" is classified under the subject headings of "social studies/geography". This reader-friendly book is not just for experts. It combines sound scholarship with personal essays by seniors and focuses on the (interlinked) issues of housing, transportant and community services. Hodge spells out, for any municipalities that are interested, how to gather data and go through the steps of formulating and implementing an urban plan to keep their senior citizens as independent as possible.

Do read it.

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