AARP AARP States Rhode Island Community

What is a Livable Community?

By Kathleen Connell, Published in RI Senior Digest

Kathleen Connell

We all want the same things.

What? How absurd. The world is filled with all kinds of people with all kinds of wants. Sure. That’s true. But when it comes to where we live – where we call home – there are certain things we share.

Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or income, we can all agree that improvements to our communities benefit everyone. Here’s what tops the list:

  • Safe, accessible and affordable places to live for you and your family
  • Access to the shops, businesses and community services that you interact with every day
  • To live near friends, family and people you can rely on

Here’s how AARP comes into play and why the idea of Livable Communities is so important to Rhode Islanders. People and families are better off when communities prepare for the fact that people are living longer than ever before. The United States is in the midst of a significant demographic shift, with the country’s population aging quickly and dramatically over the next dozen years.

In 2030, one of every five Americans will be age 65 or older — and the population of people 85 and older will increase dramatically to almost 10 million. This trend impacts every state and nearly every community. In Rhode Island it’s well known we’re older. More than 39 percent of our population will be 65 and older by the year 2025.

But it is important to understand Livable Communities is not just about settled-in older people. It is for people of all ages. From babies to baby boomers and beyond — we all benefit when the places we live are designed for the rest of our lives.

Boomers and millennials represent a combined total of 150 million people, the majority of whom have expressed a preference for connected communities. These survey statistics suggest, again, most people want the same things.

  • 72% of boomers and 54% of millennials would trade a shorter commute for a smaller home
  • 49% of boomers and 62% of millennials want proximity to a mix of shops, offices and restaurants
  • 42% of boomers and 59% of millennials want neighborhoods that have a mix of housing types
  • 42% of boomers and 55% of millennials want public transportation options

And when it comes to citizens engaging in the process and encouraging in improvements that enhance the quality of life, we can all be winners. A survey by Smart Growth America of 17 development studies concluded that dense, mixed-use development saves municipalities an average of 10 percent on public services such as police, ambulances and firefighting.  Engaged communities often save money so that taxpayers can save more for the things that matter most.

Livable Communities touch on many key areas of daily life, including transportation infrastructure, housing, employment, access to health services and outdoor space.

On September 11, AARP staff and volunteers converged on Peace & Plenty Park in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood. We’ve been working there for years and it was with great satisfaction that we spent the morning of this year’s National Service Day removing weeds, pruning and raking. The park is a haven for nearby families that is beautifully maintained and a dramatic contrast to the uninhabited apartment building and vacant houses that once stood there. It’s kept trash-free by the people who use the park and volunteers that keep things tidy on a daily basis. But weeds are relentless. We were delighted to contribute to a celebration marking the park’s 10 th anniversary. (Adding to our group of volunteers was U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who showed up in work clothes and joined right in.)

RI_03_US Sen Jack Reed with staff and volunteers

This is what it’s all about. Peace & Plenty is a model for Livable Communities success stories that can happen almost anywhere – once people decide to work together. See more  photos on the AARPRI Facebook page.

Great communities thrive when people come together and start listening to one another. By listening to people’s concerns and learning what individual neighborhoods really need, policy makers can make real changes that create real results. It’s important for everyone to get involved, so local leaders can find common sense solutions that improve communities and change lives.

And so, here is an invitation to learn more and see if there is something you would like to improve where you live. AARP is holding a Livable Communities Forum on Thursday, October 25, from 10-11:30 a.m., at our offices at 10 Orms St., Providence. Parking is free and there will be refreshments. We have a great lineup of speakers and have invited a number of guests who will join in the conversation. More than anything, we want to hear what you have to say.

Please register in advance by going to or simply call toll-free 877-926-8300. See you there!



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