The gaps in DC’s transportation system inconvenience many of us, but to many seniors, they represent serious roadblocks to shopping, doctor’s appointments and social visits. A new report from the Coalition for Smarter Growth has identified several of the District’s transportation shortcomings as they relate to older adults and the elderly, and it suggests solutions.
I was interviewed for this report, and it supports much of what I have been trying to accomplish in Forest Hills and citywide: Creating a well-maintained network of sidewalks and safe crossings. As we get grayer and creakier, having accessible and safe transportation alternatives will make our community and the city a great place to age in place. – Marlene Berlin
SEPTEMBER 9, 2014
CONTACT: Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth: 202-675-0016; firstname.lastname@example.org
New report details how DC can create a more inclusive city for an aging population
WASHINGTON, DC—A new report from the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) identifies several ways DC has failed to maximize inclusive mobility options for older adults and seniors, and details solutions that can help the city create a more age-friendly city in the coming decades.
Older adults make up 11 percent of the District’s population. Baby boomers, the oldest of whom are turning 68 this year, are an estimated 17 percent of current residents and increasingly prefer to age in place – either in their homes or neighborhoods.
“We applaud the District of Columbia’s efforts to create a more age-friendly city. But there are many ways the city could do more to become a great place to live as we age,” said CSG Policy Director Cheryl Cort. “By ensuring mobility and access for residents of all ages, DC will encourage neighborhoods that are vibrant and also equitable. We can build great places to both grow up and grow old. From small improvements to our streetscape to better coordination of multiple transportation services, we can find many ways to make our city a better place to live for all residents.”
The report, Moving an Age-Friendly DC: Transportation for All Ages [PDF], encourages local decision-makers and advocates to respond to the needs of an increasing population of older adults by focusing on age-friendly transportation options. Following national best practices in three areas – the pedestrian environment, fixed-route public transit, and alternative specialized transportation – CSG assessed the District’s progress towards becoming an age-friendly city. Among the most surprising findings:
Senior service providers in the area highlighted many of the report’s recommendations, including one to create a mobility management program for alternative specialized transportation in the District.
“Transportation is one of the most essential services for those who are aging in our community. Unfortunately, the system is so disjointed and difficult to navigate that many older adults have no idea what services are available for safe, sustainable and reliable transportation, or how to access these services,” said Julie Maggioncalda, Director of Volunteer and Social Services at the Capitol Hill Village. “At Capitol Hill Village we arrange hundreds of rides each year for our members. The need really is huge, and there is no question that this need will grow. A centralized, one-stop-shop specifically for transportation would really streamline the process and make sure that we are maximizing service delivery, not to mention making this entire system much simpler for older adults and their caregivers.”
Recommendations in the report also urge the District to dedicate adequate funding for sidewalk maintenance and repair, as well as to continue increasing the designation of protected bike lanes in the city.
“As a retiree, I like to use a bike to get around the city, but it can be hard to find safe streets for riding,” said John Goodman, a senior and resident of Woodley Park. “We need more protected bicycle lanes, so people of all ages can feel more comfortable getting around. By separating cyclists from both traffic and pedestrians, protected bike lanes offer something safe for everybody, however they want to travel.”
The report comes at an important time when DC and many other cities around the world are working to become more age-friendly. The nation’s 65 and over population is expected to double between now and 2050, according to the US Census Bureau.
“Having worked with communities across the nation on improving livability for older adults, I applaud the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s efforts to identify areas of concern for DC seniors,” said Stephanie Firestone, the Director of Livable Communities at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). “Decision-makers must recognize the benefits of planning for residents’ needs across the lifespan. Older adults need more robust transportation and mobility options to stay connected to their communities.”
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at smartergrowth.net.