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New Urbanism for senior living appeals to Boomers

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New Urbanism—a development model that integrates housing, retail, and amenity services—is not a new concept. But the integration of senior living communities within these new town centers is still rare.

That may not be the case for long. In their Environments for Aging conference session, Jane Rohde, principal, JSR Associates, Inc.; and Elizabeth Brawley, president, Design Concepts Unlimited, made a case for a lifestyle choice that appeals to aging Boomers: They cited findings that one-third to one-half of older adults are interested in the concept. Suburban, homogenous, gated senior communities may hold less appeal to this generation who often are characterized as open to more diverse living environments.

New Urbanism communities often feature:

· an identifiable center

· a short walk to a community center

· varying housing types, scales, and costs

· amenity spaces, shopping venues, and services

· green space and a playground

· interconnected streets (no dead ends)

· narrower, shaded streets

· buildings placed closed to the street front

· landmark buildings (e.g. a church) providing focal points and wayfinding.

In fact, posits Brawley, the progressive design principles espoused in New Urbanism should appeal to any age, “not just for seniors—who wants to be called out as a ‘senior’ anyway?”

For the New Urbanism concept to be viable, developers will need to focus on reform planning and zoning codes; multi-generational, mixed-income appeal; accessible dwelling units; redevelopment of commercial spaces into mixed uses; and an expanded transit system.

Patricia Sheehan

Patricia Sheehan


Patricia Sheehan wrote for Long-Term Living when she was editor-in-chief. She left that...



This was a great session. Locating senior living environments in an urban setting with a rich mix of services and activities within easy walking distance, instead of out in a corn field someplace, is just such a no-brainer. That said, these two ladies have an abundance of brainpower between the two of them, and are always a pleasure to listen to. It's just too bad that their session handout won't be available on the Vendome website.