It’s estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers celebrate their 65th birthday every day. I know this because my mother was one of those Boomers who passed the threshold into senior citizen status. What I wasn’t ready for was her decision to move back to Western New York and potentially give up driving. Where was she going to live? Without driving, could she get to stores, restaurants, the post office, health care facilities and more? These questions and more are how senior citizens are driving a series of radical changes in the way communities are being transformed for the future.
It’s estimated one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or over by 2020, and developers, planners and cities need to consider the growing senior population when planning housing and all that comes with it. One way is returning to Pre-WWII traditional neighborhoods, taking the form of the design movement called New Urbanism.
New urbanist neighborhoods are based upon the traditional town planning principles of the early 20th century:
- Communities are pedestrian-friendly with a city center, such as a square or public green space, as well as shops, schools, offices, restaurants, civic centers and entertainment within easy walking distance of homes (1/4 mile walk or five minutes to the city center).
- A variety of housing, including apartments, lofts, condominiums, row houses and detached single-family homes, should be available.
- Buildings and houses often draw their design influences from the late 19th and early 20th century with front porches, back garages and picket fences.
New urbanism is much more than these three planning principles. Its goals include sustainability, transportation, regionalism, affordability, financing and entitlements and accessibility. The design movement has also inspired Smart Growth America, the National Complete Streets Coalition and city planning documents like the Green Code here in Buffalo. No matter the plan or movement, the goals are the same, making communities safe, livable and welcoming to everyone.
To help in the development of walkable and sustainable cities, towns and neighborhoods, the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) New York State Chapter is hosting a retreat Oct. 10-12, 2012, at the historical Chautauqua Institution. Attendees will learn about “how new urbanism and smart growth can help activists, developers, professionals and local officials leverage their resources, infrastructure and location to uncover the diamonds in the Rust Belt and improve their communities,” according to the George Grasser, CEO of Partners for a Liveable Western New York.
Buffalo is also the site of the 2014 Congress for New Urbanism, a leading venue for new urbanist education, collaboration and networking. Nationally-recognized new urbanist practitioners in the fields of planning, architecture, traffic, housing, retail and public officials will discuss development practices and public policies, learn from recent innovative work, and advance new initiatives to transform communities.
It’s a good thing Western New York is thinking about the future for its seniors because Florida can only hold so many Baby Boomers.
Do you have any suggestions of places the attendees of the 2014 Congress of New Urbanism should visit in Western New York? Share with us in the comment section below.