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How to Find the Best Community for All Ages: The AARP Livability Index

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A powerful, free tool makes it easier for people of all ages to choose communities that have the mix of services and amenities that best meet their needs, according a presentation by an AARP livability expert before the 2021 Virginia Conference on Aging.

The event was presented online May 24-27 by the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging with support from AARP Virginia and others.

The AARP Livability Index compares every neighborhood and community in the United States across seven categories: housing, neighborhood life, transportation, environment, health, civic and social engagement and inclusive job and educational opportunities.

“If you plan to move to a different community, or if an adult child is trying to find a new job near transit and affordable housing, the AARP Livability Index can help you make an informed choice,” said Jana Lynott, senior strategic policy advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. The Index is also designed for community advocates to better understand their relative strengths and weaknesses in order to help catalyze community change.

To find out how livable a community or neighborhood is in various factors, just insert an address, city or zip code at www.aarp.org/livabilityindex. For example, the “Health” category assesses the quality of hospital care and notes if there is a shortage of health care professionals. The “Neighborhood” category evaluates places based on proximity to parks, farmer’s markets and jobs that can be accessed by public transportation; it also ranks crime rates and density.

Users can compare up to three communities by using the “Compare Location” function. For example, average monthly housing costs in Lynchburg, Va., are $888 a month, versus $1,054 in Richmond. If public transportation is a priority, Harrisonburg offers 26 buses or trains per hour – all of which are accessible to persons with disabilities, while Lynchburg has fewer options.

Localities in Virginia that rate among the “most livable” by AARP include:

  • The cities of Falls Church, Alexandria, and Leesburg
  • The towns of Scottsville, Vinton, and Middleburg
  • The counties of Arlington, Albemarle, and Loudoun.

“The Livability Index can inform state and local investment decisions,” says Lynott. Local and state officials can use the Livability Index to understand how well the Commonwealth’s cities, towns, and counties perform against 40 on-the-ground measures of livability. In addition, they can get a quick snapshot of local and state policy adoption. The quickest way to improve one’s score is through adoption of the 20 policies tracked in the Index.
Lynott invited mayors, city planners, citizen activists and other community officials to learn more about age-friendly efforts around the United States by subscribing to the award-winning AARP Livable Communities Weekly e-Newsletter. The emailed newsletter is how AARP announces release of the latest free publications and the application period for the annual AARP Community Challenge grant program.

The AARP Livability Index was launched in 2015. Scores are periodically updated with new data. The AARP Public Policy Institute will launch a site redesign this fall, along with revised scores based on the most recently available data.

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