As Baby Boomers age, its becoming critically important for leadership to recognize the demographic shift, and to plan accordingly.

Speaking to The Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association 50+ Council Tuesday, Manny Gonzalez, a senior partner with the KTGY architecture group, told an audience of the city’s key construction, architecture and design players that every day, 10,000 more people in the country are turning 65. Thanks to the post WWII “Baby Boom” and advances in medical care that are allowing longer lifespans, Gonzalez said, “It’s a huge amount of people living much longer.”

These individuals will have specific requirements as they age - requirements local governments must understand now, and make strides towards fulfilling, if they are to effectively serve elderly populations.

This doesn’t necessarily mean building new retirement homes in every city across the country. Gonzales said to become “age friendly,” cities must incorporate the principles of Universal Design, or inclusive elements to help support the elderly, when zoning and city planning. These design principles, when utilized correctly, will help make communities more accessible to all residents.

Universal Design elements, rather than dividing populations between the old and the young, will make a community “intergenerational,” or more inclusive for everyone, according to Gonzalez. While Gonzales mainly spoke on Universal Design during home construction, at a municipal level, these elements can include, but are not limited to:

  • Easily accessible walking trails
Community exercise facilities with a wide range of equipment and classes
Community gardens

  • Sport facilities with the elderly in mind (swimming pools, bocce ball, billiards tables, etc.)
  • Reliable, easy-to-use public transit
  • Computer labs
  • Access to adult education through Universities or Libraries

Ensuring new projects are Universally Designed “doesn’t necessarily require expense,” says Gonzalez. “It merely requires more thought.”

For more information on Universal Design and creating age friendly communities, look out for American City & County’s Issues & Trends story, “Age Appropriate,” in the December issue.

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