As with many cities and towns throughout the country, my community is struggling to meet the needs of an expanding senior population and the unique opportunities they present. Today’s seniors are active, productive and offer life knowledge in the communities in which they live.
The creation of new senior housing offers a tremendous opportunity to bring together a diverse population, improve the quality of living and provide benefits for all. It is important for society to embrace the life of experience and wisdom our seniors have to offer. Our seniors can be the guiding light to our future, helping to educate and assist us on our journey forward.
Senior housing designed to include housing for young families with children would bring together generations, provide opportunities for shared wisdom and act much like an extended family. The blending of market rate housing, affordable housing and senior housing within a community setting will promote a higher quality of living, a strengthened family structure and a community based on neighborliness and togetherness.
Communities built around a central park and social center would encourage walking, social interaction and healthy living. Communities designed with roadways and garages/parking behind houses could have setting porches and public areas as the focal point of the front of the homes.
A social center that accommodates senior activities, youthful exercise programs and community interaction is important to the health and well being of the community. The center could include a pool for aerobic exercises and swimming lessons, a gym and meeting hall for social gatherings. By separating walking and biking trails we would promote safe walking environments and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Senior’s lives would be enhanced by implementing specific activities and services to meet their needs along with opportunities for seniors to provide child oversight, education and life lessons to the younger families. Younger members could assist seniors by helping with home chores or driving a senior to the shopping center.
To be truly forward looking, our new communities must be built using green technology such as grid-tied solar panels to offset the power consumed, passive solar designs to make the properties more efficient and comfortable and use energy efficient windows and appliances.
As well, communities need to be mindful of a limited and diminishing water resource. By employing water reclamation and recycling techniques we can off set the amount of water we need to live and run our communities. For example, recycled grey water can be used for irrigation and toilet water, lessening the overall use of fresh water.
Publicly funded projects tend to focus on present building costs with less emphasis on future operating and maintenance expenses. Costs from operating inefficiencies and higher maintenance can dwarf the initial savings gained from the use of inexpensive materials and lower grade techniques. Many of the ideas presented here can be easily fit into a reasonable budget and provide long term savings. Community designs should carefully consider the impact on the resident’s quality of life, the surrounding environment and community at large.
The idea of community is certainly not a new one, yet it has seemed to have lost its luster and been pushed aside. Cross generational, economic and social communities could lessen many of the ills faced by our society. When neighbors look out for neighbors and people genuinely care about each other, we all benefit. As we move forward to meet the challenges of our communities, we have an opportunity to build a new community that works together, lives together and is beneficial for all involved.