Where We Live: Communities for All Ages

We're great admirers of AARP's Livable Communities initiative, so today we're excited to share an excerpt from their newly released book, Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Examples from America's Local LeadersThe book highlights inspiring ideas and solutions from America's local leaders to improve their communities, respond to pressing issues, and build partnerships. 

Visit this page to get your free paperback or digital copy today. Read on to get a taste of what's inside.

Rethink the Purpose of Some Parking Lots

by Nancy LeaMond, edited by Melissa Stanton

The revitalization of downtown Kuna, Idaho, was full speed ahead. Businesses were fixing up storefronts. Crumbling sidewalks were replaced with new surfaces and widened. Street lighting, benches, bicycle racks and landscape beds were spruced up. Streets were repaved.

Source: Where We Live

Source: Where We Live

All was on pace, except for one key element: the Bernie Fisher Parking Lot, which is adjacent to a hiking and biking trail, the Kuna Senior Center and the downtown business district.

The lot was blighted. But it had great potential — as a pedestrian-friendly public plaza rather than the oversized, largely vacant space it had become. The Downtown Revitalization Plan deferred the lot’s redesign for a later community process.

To spark that process and the community’s imagination, the city and Idaho Smart Growth hosted the Park for a Day event so residents could experience a sample plaza in the parking lot. There was live music, a food vendor and sketches of the ways the acreage could be transformed.

Attendees were welcome to create their own designs. The suggestions tended toward using the space for a series of short-term, recurring events, such as an Oktoberfest, Christmas Village, Renaissance fair or themed dance nights.

Observed Scot Oliver, executive director of Idaho Smart Growth: “With suggestions from visitors and our recommendations, the city of Kuna has solid support for making improvements to the space that will be more than just paving and striping.”

Provide Places for People to Sit

by Nancy LeaMond, edited by Melissa Stanton

Look along the streets you walk, drive or ride. It’s likely you’ll see one or several bus stops where passengers are standing and waiting. And they’re standing because the only place to sit is on the ground.

Public places to sit for a bit make communities, spaces and places more livable for people of all ages. While it’s true that older people often need to take a break when they’re out and about, so do toddlers, pregnant women, people who are on their feet all day, anyone wearing uncomfortable shoes... The list goes on.

Source: Where We Live

Source: Where We Live

In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, several dozen older adults and people with disabilities live across the street from the bus stop shown in the before and after images on the right. Also nearby is a housing complex where many young families live.

“All of these residents will benefit from having a safer, more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing place to wait for the bus, and it will encourage them to more fully participate in the larger Jackson Hole community,” wrote Becky Zaist, executive director of the Senior Center of  Jackson Hole, in an application to the AARP Community Challenge.

With the funding granted and the cleanup complete, she shares that “neighbors came out to help us dig the very hard, rocky soil for the garden area. One neighbor has volunteered to water the plants, another brought strawberry plants to put in the garden, and yet another has volunteered to remove snow from the bench in the winter.” Next on the wish list: installing a bus shelter.

To encourage pedestrian traffic, the very small city of Port Orford, Oregon (population 1,159, average age 56), installed seating with attached planters. The benches give the business district a boost and “provide a needed place for people to rest, people watch, talk to friends and enjoy the town,” explains Karen Auborn, president of the Port Orford Street Revitalization Association. She adds that immediately after the installation, “People were sitting on the benches despite it being cold and the off-season.”

Get your free copy of Where We Live: Communities for All Ages.