Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Surrey’s new Age-Friendly Strategy for Seniors

There are two major demographic trends that are having a big impact on the future of cities and regions in North America. One trend is the rising average age of our population, and growing absolute number of seniors. The other trend is that Millennials, one of the largest age cohorts since the Boomers, want to live in urban communities and have turned away from suburban living.

Interesting enough, seniors and Millennials have very similar aspirations for where they want to live; it is fundamental Smart Growth. Cities and regions that turn these aspirations into on-the-ground community design will thrive. Communities that don’t will have a hard time.

The City of Surrey recently adopted their Age-Friendly Strategy for Seniors. I wanted to share some of the highlights of that strategy. The strategy focus on four key areas:

Safety, Health & Wellness
Seniors are supported to be active and engaged in their community and engagement practices are in place to prevent isolation.

Transportation and Mobility
Seniors have a range of safe, convenient, and affordable transportation options

Seniors have access to affordable and appropriate housing, and support necessary to remain as independent as possible

Buildings and Outdoor Spaces
Public places, outdoor spaces and buildings are designed to be welcoming, safe and accessible

When you dive deep into the strategy, one of the roles of Surrey (and any community) is to build an accessible public realm. This means creating safe and welcoming streets. It also means designing the public realm considering people who need mobility aids. This is one of the reasons why Surrey now requires wider sidewalks. On top of that, Surrey will needs to ensure it provides high-quality public service likes libraries and community centres.

One of the key tenets of Smart Growth design is to provide a variety of housing types at different price points. Surrey’s strategy focuses on ensuring there is affordable housing. It also focuses on building housing that can be adapted for people with disabilities or mobility challenges.

Another focus of the strategy is to connect seniors with shops and services by designing walkable communities that support cycling and public transit.

Building an age-friendly community supports people at all ages in life. If Surrey is successful in implementing their age-friendly strategy, it will create a community that will support seniors and attract Millennials that want to live in Smart Growth communities.

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