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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Greying of American Cities: Evaluating Built Environment Indicators for Ensuring an Age-Friendly City

  • Author(s): Coleman, Valerie J.
  • Advisor(s): Estrada, Leobardo
  • et al.

The American elderly population is growing at unprecedented rates, six times faster than the rest of the population, and by 2050, cohorts 65 years and older will have doubled (Krout & Wethington, Eds., 2003). In a few short years, they will account for 24% of the population, yet cities have not planned for this silver tsunami. There is an urgent need to ensure the age-friendliness of our cities.

This research begins with a literature review that focuses on the impact of the built environment, specifically with regards to seniors. The literature review serves a secondary role, creating an initial list of criteria around the needs of an aging population in the central city. Based on this list of built environment focused criteria, 88 potential indicators were developed and shared with 34 aging experts; professionals within the fields of aging and the built environment.

The iterative survey conducted in this study suggests that there are 24 key indicators that aging experts consider the most effective in creating an age-friendly city. Indicators were chosen based on their relative measurability, sensitivity to change, and action oriented and were ranked according to the following purposes: city policy, city implementation and infrastructure, greatest number of seniors served, and city-to-city comparison.

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