Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America

“We, as a nation, must examine ways to support aging in place for the unprecedented numbers of older Americans seeking to live healthy and contributing lives in communities that serve all ages. Americans are aging in traditional homes, neighborhoods and communities that were designed for yesterday’s demographic realities, not those of today or in the future. The sheer size of the baby boom generation guarantees that, as the health and mobility of so many begin to deteriorate, communities could be saddled with enormous burden. What can be done quickly and affordably to support successful aging in communities throughout the United States? What will be our plan for supporting the oldest of the old among us?

Homes can be retrofitted, new age-appropriate homes built, existing neighborhoods reconnected and new communities planned. Financial strategies must adapt to new needs and opportunities. Public opinion must be better aligned with the values of accessibility, affordability, connectivity and diversity. All levels of government must address these challenges with bold solutions.”
– Cisneros, et al, Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America, UT Press, 2012

Studies by AARP and others consistently show that the majority of older Americans prefer to age in place, in the homes and communities of their choice. But are our homes, neighborhoods and communities equipped to meet the needs of growing numbers of older Americans? Senior Research Scholars at the Stanford Center on Longevity – Jane Hickie and Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, in a collaboration with former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, have co-edited a book, published by University of Texas Press, about aging in place.

Independent for Life covers a wide range of smart solutions, including remodeling current housing and building new homes for accessibility and safety, retrofitting existing neighborhoods to connect needed services and amenities, and planning new communities that work well for people of all ages. Case studies show how the proposals can be implemented. The authors offer action plans for working with policy makers at local, state, and national levels to address the larger issues of aging in place, including family financial security, real estate markets, and the limitations of public support. Lists of essential resources, including a detailed “to do” list of aging in place priorities and an individual home assessment, complete the volume.

Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and four-term mayor of San Antonio, is Executive Chairman of CityView, a company that specializes in urban real estate, in-city housing, and metropolitan infrastructure. Cisneros is the author of several books, including Interwoven Destinies: Cities and Nation and Our Communities, Our Homes: Pathways to Housing and Homeownership in America’s Cities and States..

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain is Senior Research Scholar and Managing Director at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Jane Hickie is a Senior Research Scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Essential to the life of this project is The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, which is a project of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Their generous funding was joined by important support from the Home Depot Foundation, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Foundation. This book is intended to credit the continuing work of these generous institutions in improving the lives of older Americans.

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