Can you point to examples?
Can you point to examples?
There are communities that are now rethinking zoning policies so that granny flats can be built on the same lots as larger-size homes. There are places using the high school library as the community library. So, elderly people can work there or volunteer there and interface with the next generation. I think we’ll be recycling older communities in many parts of the U.S., clearing away obsolete buildings and reconfiguring them as elderly housing. The recession has created a lot of sites that are no longer economically viable. Strip centers, even regional malls are being remade with housing for the elderly in mind. We also need to generate prototypes for new age-appropriate homes for people who are leaving McMansions and looking for a smaller home.
What about affordable housing?
We need to double down on very successful programs that have produced affordable housing for the elderly. Low-income housing tax credits: We need more. And HUD’s Section 202 [supportive housing for the elderly] program: We need more of that. In some respects, this is the least problematic area because we know what to do; we just need to do more of it.
What we don’t know how to do very well is help people who are middle-class but who are about to fall off the dual cliff of aging and frailty while living on fixed incomes and aging in place.
Yet this is an era of budget cuts. How do you make the case for more financial assistance for programs of this kind?
As a country, we owe it to our seniors. It’s the right thing to do. It is unacceptable to leave a large segment of the population on their own at the most frail time of their lives. I also think we can make the case that cost savings can be achieved by keeping people living independently as long as possible instead of going to assisted living or nursing home facilities.
What about the suburbs?
The baby boomers are the first American suburban generation. But the suburbs are the worst place to age because they’re so unwalkable and totally dependent on the automobile. Living in a cul-de-sac is really hard when you lose access to your car. So these communities have to think of new strategies.
One of the authors in your book writes about his personal longevity plan.
Do you have one?
I turned 65 this year, and I do have a plan that involves daily exercise and fitness. My personal role models are people who don’t think about retirement but have created either businesses or activities that will allow them to be active until the very end.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.