City life

Alert readers may have noticed something—when we’re addressing “Environments for Aging” in our new department of that name, more often than not we’re talking about the urban environment. That might seem a little strange at first glance, since (I’m willing to bet) most of our readers are based in suburban locations. And perhaps some, if not most, still entertain the notion that the city is something you only visit—and endure—to experience a sporting event, major entertainment venue, or famous restaurant. Perhaps (like me) you’re from the city originally, and the city you left behind was nothing to brag about.

Many of today’s cities, though, are becoming something quite different—places where people of all incomes and ages not only work, but live in, walk about, shop in (maybe), learn, relax, and enjoy. Cities of various sizes and descriptions have been investing of late in new types of housing, transportation services, retail complexes, and parks, hoping to attract permanent residents who will revitalize their urban environments.

Perhaps you’ve even seen this referred to as “The New Urbanism.” For the first time, an “Environments for Aging” article alludes to that term specifically—you’ll find it in an interview with senior environment designer/planner/consultant Kenyon Morgan of Oklahoma City (one of those rebounding cities, by the way). So, what is going on here—what does any of this have to do with long-term care?

It may have everything to do with its future, or a large part of it. The factors behind this are so obvious that it’s striking: A growing group of elderly who want contact and stimulation, not isolation, in their environments; empty-nesters who are interested in leaving behind the headaches of property upkeep, travel demands, and other costs of suburban living for a simpler, less strenuous, more socially active lifestyle; a general population confronting an increasingly costly suburban/exurban lifestyle, the existence of which is predicated largely on the availability of cheap gasoline. All these pressures are converging to push people back into cities.

Not that it’s a slam-dunk. The decades of abandonment of cities, along with their aging infrastructures and unresolved issues of poverty, have made urban revitalization a very spotty enterprise at best. Even cities that have taken the lead in this are still working to resolve these fundamental issues, and more. Beyond that, the revitalization that is going on has not necessarily taken into account the aging and increasingly disabled population whom our readers serve.

That’s where we come in, or at least we are trying to. The stories you are seeing in this issue, and in past and future ones, are stories of long-term care (aka long-term living) providers who have taken up this challenge. They are quite literally building a large part of the future of our field. We hope that you, our readers, are finding this to be interesting and helpful—perhaps even vital in planning your organizations’ futures.

As always, we are open to comments and ideas—please see the e-mail contact information below.


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Topics: Articles