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Aging in the Suburbs – Is This Realistic or Risky?

Aging in the Suburbs – Is This Realistic or Risky?

By Susan Williams

The suburbs. Where homes were built outside city limits so young families could enjoy home ownership and having their own backyard.

Suburban life really started to boom after World War II when many war vets returned home and wanted to settle down.

At that time the suburbs were ideal.

They were typically located just outside the major cities. Given the increased capabilities to commute to the city because of the infrastructure to support cars and trains, it became a great place to get a larger home and space and raise a family.

However today the suburbs are filled with baby boomers.

Back in 1950, only 7.4% of the population living in the suburbs was over 65 – in 2014 it was at 14.5% and this percentage is only going to increase as baby boomers continue to age.

But are the suburbs really the best place to age?

Homes that were built in the suburbs were typically designed for young families.

Often being two stories, mobility within the home was never really thought of as part of the design equation. Stairs, laundry rooms, bathrooms were all designed with a young family in mind. Not for someone who was older or who possibly may have mobility issues.

As well, transit systems were often slow to develop in the suburbs or if they were available, were not necessarily that convenient to use to move around. Cars were the main mode of transportation.

There were also typically only a few stores that would be in walking distance of a home in the suburbs. Groceries, clothes and just about every other essential was reached by driving in the car. Malls were the mainstay of the suburban shopping experience.

Community centers also popped up across the suburbs and often housed gyms, swimming pools, ice rinks and other sports or interests that young people were often interested in. But again, many in the community would have to drive in order to get there.

The AARP reported that 87% of people over the age of 65 want to remain in their own homes and age in place.

However the question is will the suburbs be able to support this demand?

In an article published by the CBC, an urban planner suggests that the following questions should be asked when aging in the suburbs;

“Where can I walk to in two minutes? In five minutes? In 10 minutes?”

“People, he says, should be able to walk to a parkette in two minutes, and the bus stop in five — what he calls the building blocks of sustainability and community livability.”

What also needs to be considered is how to deliver services to the elderly in the suburbs.

Healthcare, food delivery, home renovation and maintenance are just examples of some things that need to be addressed. Plus there is also the need to ensure that elders remain socially engaged which may require increased demand for mobility support as driving possibly becomes a challenge.

So, aging in the suburbs is possible. But more services and support will be needed in order to help ensure that we reduce the risks.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.