Building Livable Communities for All Ages in Washington, D.C.


Affordable Housing development

New affordable housing development near Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station.

 

Many perceive Washington, DC as being a livable community. It has plenty of shops, interesting neighborhoods, fun destinations, lively streets, and transit options.

Yet is the nation’s capital truly livable? A livable community is livable for people of all ages. Shops should include stores with healthy food choices and pharmacies, while interesting neighborhoods mean housing for diverse household types. Fun destinations should feature not just costly options, but recreation centers, libraries, and parks.  Lively streets should be safe for pedestrians, bikes, and cars.

A look at the city’s livability status and efforts going forward highlight the kinds of successes and challenges for many cities across the country.

Top 10 Success

Fortunately, the nation’s capital does boast many positive livability features. Washington ranks in the top 10 livable large cities, according to AARP’s Livability Index: Great Neighborhoods for All Ages. The Index helps communities  determine how well they meet the needs of residents across their lifespan. Livability attributes benefiting older residents typically benefit younger ones as well.

The Index measures indicators across seven categories: health, environment (air and water quality), social and civic engagement; accessible and affordable housing; transportation; supportive services; and economic and educational opportunity. In our latest update, the District receives a livability score of 59 –higher than the average of 50, scoring best in engagement, transportation, and neighborhood.

Eyeing Livability 2.0

DC, like all communities no matter how successful, still has work to do. As the Index shows, the nation’s capital faces challenges in features related to the environment and to opportunity, and it also is working to meet the needs of its residents as they age. As a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, the District is making livability a top priority. The District’s age-friendly action plan, based on community assessment and input, addresses affordable housing, social isolation, and neighborhood safety. A recent progress report highlights achievements such as an intergenerational housing complex, an expansion of affordable units targeting very-low income residents, and a partnership to obtain transportation for older adult residents.

Yet success often brings challenges. Features that make cities more livable and attractive can push housing demand and prices higher. As a result, retaining and building affordable housing, especially in popular urban areas, become increasingly difficult. Sure enough, the Index shows Washington struggling with high housing-related costs and a lower-than-average rate of accessible homes for people with limited mobility. Washington is not alone in grappling with how to ensure that everyone has a place to live, for this is happening across the country.

The District is addressing its affordability and housing challenges through strategies such as low-income housing tax credits, inclusionary zoning, and funding for services for homeless families.  In 2016, the city committed $100 million to its Housing Production Trust Fund. The investment will fund 12 new developments including a project consisting of units specifically slated for older adults. Other new and renovated housing units add more affordable options. Many such units are close to public transportation, neighborhood amenities, and social services.  Additionally, the city helps older adults and people with disabilities renovate homes with features that make them safer. These policies all help residents to remain in their communities as prices rise.

A Vision Requiring Collaboration

Meanwhile, the work continues in many communities.  As DC shows, achieving greater livability for everyone requires a strong collaboration among residents, businesses, agencies, local organizations, and developers. Partners can provide key data, add their perspectives, and share expertise—ultimately resulting in effective and innovative solutions that improve communities and address challenges.

Neighborhood Amenities

Community services and amenities along Rhode Island Avenue and 12th St. NE.

 

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 Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney



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Disrupting Housing: Younger Generations Leading the Way to Develop a Model for Ageless Homes

Disrupting Housing: Younger Generations Leading the Way to Develop a Model for Ageless Homes


Every person, regardless of age, can participate in creating a livable community. According to a newly published report from Generations United, opportunities that bring different generations together—even the tougher ones involving “tack[ling] critical problems” benefit the entire community.

Though somewhat counterintuitive, finding solutions to meet the needs of older adults must involve voices and collaboration coming from people of all ages. Various generations offer different perspectives, and in fact, people of all ages gain value from age friendly concepts. A recent project we led proved to be a living example.

A Winning Project

The likelihood of having a disability that limits a person’s mobility increases with age. Homes with physical barriers can present risk of falls and injuries, especially for someone with mobility challenges. In 2016, AARP and its partners called for submissions to a competition-style project that sought new solutions for homes that best accommodate our needs as we age. “Re-Defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow,” developed through AARP’s Future of Housing Initiative, asked architects to redesign an existing home while embracing the concept of universal design—that is, design that supports and empowers all people and families: retirees, caregivers and their loved ones, people with disabilities, singles, and young and multigenerational families.

AARP and partners renovated a home in Memphis, TN to incorporate universal design features to accommodate the needs of residents as they age. New features include an open space floor plan with flexible space, wide hallways and spacious bathroom with a curb-less shower.
Photo: Benjamin Rednour

 

Entrants were challenged to discard typical designs usually targeted towards older adults such as ramps or shower handrails. Rather, competition judges wanted to see evidence of innovative thinking around how affordability, flexibility, community, accessibility, beauty and functionality could best be reflected in a home for people who want to remain in their homes as they age.

Accessible features

Designers incorporated features that provide opportunities to engage the community. Front yard planters can become a community garden. Large windows invite interaction with neighbors.   Photo: Benjamin Rednour

 

The winning team included three junior architects, from IBI Group—Gruzen Samton, Gabriel Espinoza, Carmen Velez, and Timothy Gargiulo—professionals under age 30. Their designs considered what it means to age in place successfully: creating an easily navigable home, incorporating features to reduce fall risks, as well as creating space to nurture and maintain family and community connections. Ms. Velez no doubt drew from her own experience living with her grandmother, Carmencita Bengzon, to help inform the team’s choices. Ultimately, this winning team’s original and imaginative plans were incorporated into a house in Memphis, TN—now the home of a veteran and his family, including his mom, who has limited mobility.

Winning team; veteran family

IBI Group—Gruzen Samton architects, Gabriel Espinoza, Timothy Gargiulo, and Carmen Velez speak about their winning designs at the home renovation reveal (left). Mr. Walter Moody and his mother, see their “ageless” home for the first time (right). Photo: Benjamin Rednour

 

Also achieving success in age disruption was the entry from 11-year old Jennifer Haage, a self-described future architect. (Yes, that’s right—when we say all ages should contribute, we mean all ages.) In her thoughtful and comprehensive proposal, Jenny shared her ideas for aging within a home suitable for all families. Her designs included using wide hallways for wheelchair accessibility, creating multi-functional spaces, adding in interior and exterior green spaces, and incorporating a “cat corner,” since pets can be great companionship for older adults who may feel isolated.

Renderings by Jennifer Haage

Designs from Jennifer Haage, age 11, who shared her vision for an “ageless” home. Photo: Jennifer Haage

 

All-Ages Approach a Winning Combination

The Re-Defining Home competition illustrates how accessible home design can be duplicated across the country.  The winning team exemplifies younger generations taking action to solve pressing issues that make stronger communities for all. Encouraging and inspiring young people to participate in aging issues can positively impact their families, careers and communities—and help us to make places more livable for people, both today and tomorrow.

 

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Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney



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No Wrong Door: Promising Practices for Accessing Long-Term Services and Supports

No Wrong Door: Promising Practices for Accessing Long-Term Services and Supports


Photo courtesy of Sullivan County New Hampshire ServiceLink

Most of us will need long-term services and supports (LTSS), either for ourselves or our family members. However, most of us do not know about our options and how to pay for these services. That is why the LTSS State Scorecard—created by the AARP Public Policy Institute and funded by The Scan Foundation and The Commonwealth Fund—ranks states on their Aging and Disability Resource Centers. These Centers are an important feature of a high performing LTSS system.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers can serve as the gateway for helping individuals and their families find and access LTSS, including light housekeeping, transportation, and respite care to give family caregivers a break, just to name a few. States have these “one-stop-shopping” models to help people receive public and private services regardless of which organization they contact. Therefore, they are sometimes called “no wrong door.” If people contact an organization within this system, they can be connected with information, referrals, and supports, resulting in “no wrong door” to services irrespective of their age, income, or disability. Area Agencies on Aging, Centers for Independent Living, and state agencies such as Medicaid agencies and state units on aging work together to make up this no wrong door system. While the states have these centers, the operations and functions of each center vary greatly, which is why the Scorecard ranks them.

Although the previous two Scorecards included an indicator on these Centers, the upcoming third edition contains an updated indicator to reflect published guidance on key elements of no wrong door systems from the federal government. AARP, in collaboration with the U.S. Administration for Community Living and The Lewin Group, collected information for this indicator from a survey of state administrators. Then, they followed up by interviewing administrators from states that had scored well or demonstrated innovation to produce a newly released promising practices and toolkit paper on person- and family-centered practices.

This first in a series of promising practices and toolkit papers provides concrete examples of how six states—Connecticut, Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—plus the District of Columbia promote person- and family-centered practices in their no wrong door systems. These Centers are using an interactive process directed by individuals and family members to support decision making. They also help to develop a plan of support that reflects an individual’s and family’s strengths, preferences, needs, and values. It affirms the core principle that each person is the expert in his or her own life rather than simply plugging people into programs based on their eligibility.

The promising practices are:

 

  • Ensuring leadership support for these practices (with examples from the District of Columbia’s mayor-led cross-population task force, Michigan’s broad support for change, and Virginia’s state legislation on this practice);
  • Creating standards for these practices (with examples from Washington’s statewide standards of practice, Virginia’s co-employment model between aging and disability organizations, the District of Columbia’s intake to better listen to people and families, and Wisconsin’s follow-up);
  • Training the “no wrong door” workforce (with examples from New Hampshire’s training and certification, the District of Columbia’s training for all, New Hampshire’s peer support model, Virginia’s person-centered advocates, and Connecticut’s essay exam); and
  • Helping people maximize use of private resources (with an example from Wisconsin that has been a leader in serving private pay clients).

 

This promising practices and toolkit paper includes resources and contacts for state and federal administrators, providers, and advocates to learn about—and even replicate—these practices. This paper also provides a checklist of what is needed to move toward more person- and family-centered practices.

NOTE: The third edition of the Scorecard will be released soon … on June 14th. Promising practices and toolkits are a new feature of the Scorecard project. More papers—such as promising practices in preventing long-term nursing home stays—will be forthcoming. For the new Scorecard, the promising practices and toolkit papers, and more, please go to the LTSS State Scorecard interactive website at www.longtermscorecard.org.

 

Wendy Fox-Grage is a Senior Strategic Policy Advisor for the AARP Public Policy Institute. She works on state long-term services and supports issues, including Medicaid and home- and community-based services.

 

 

 

 

 



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Virginia County Explores How Technology Can Help Aging Population

Virginia County Explores How Technology Can Help Aging Population


It’s clear that a majority of people want to remain independent as they age and now technology can help them do so. As a Northern Virginia resident and an employee of AARP, I was drawn to a recent local event titled “Can Technology Help Older Arlingtonians Age Independently?”

The event was the fourth installment of Arlington County’s Digital Destiny campaign which seeks to explore the impact of the Digital Revolution on defined aspects of life for the county and its residents.

This session featured Arlington county employees, local residents and aging experts discussing tech trends likely to have the greatest impact on older Americans.

Speakers included:

  • Amy Doherty, Chief Information Officer and AARP
  • Brittany Weinberg, Director of Community Engagement,Aging2.0

 

Doherty discussed three emerging trends and how they can apply to aging independently:

  1. Leveraging virtual reality to make the aging experience real to people of all ages.
  2. Investigating ways that robotics can aid in caregiving and social isolation.
  3. How artificial intelligence could strengthen programs like the Fraud Watch Network that provide citizens with information on how to avoid scams.

 

Brittany Weinberg, the Director of Community Engagement, Aging2.0. explained how people-centered-design, including voice recognition and gesture controls, is improving the technology experience for people of a variety of ages and is helping to solve issues related to caregiving and social isolation. She also noted that the prevalence of sensors within the home helps enable people to age independently and live in their homes for as long as possible.

After each speaker presented, the audience was charged to brainstorm ways they thought technology could make their lives easier.

The ideas presented included:

  • Programs that enable schools to give back to the 50+ community by allowing children to tutor older adults
  • Programs like Cyber Seniors and AARP TEK were mentioned as existing resources to help educate adults about technology.
  • Libraries were mentioned as good resources and as go-to sites for downloading digital books, taking classes and accessing educational videos via Lynda.
  • The group also encouraged tech companies to design for all ages and accessibility



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