Building an Age-Friendly Community

Age-friendly communities, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), are those that older adults find to be welcoming. These are communities and regions that are actively friendly toward, and supportive of, older adults.

Age-Friendly Community Framework

The World Health Organization is working with partner agencies in many countries around the world. In the U.S., their partner is the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which has many millions of members, and a strong staff and network. AARP has developed an agen-friendly calculator, or framework for rating U.S. states, counties and many communities. AARP’s framework uses many of the factors listed below. I have clustered some of the factors together for easier grouping, using some terms that economic development and holistic community development professionals use, such as the “built environment.” The AARP Livability Index provides some helpful information about many areas of community health and life. It is especially useful for urban and suburban areas. Rural areas often don’t have the critical mass of people and data for the AARP algorithms to work well.

  • Built environment (housing, transportation, quality of the neighborhood);
  • Natural resources (clean air and water, parks);
  • Healthcare  (prevention, access to care, and quality of healthcare);
  • Community engagement and opportunity (civic engagement, social opportunities, music, art, recreational facilities, work and volunteering possibilities).

Why an Age-Friendly Community is Important 

What is important about this framework from WHO and AARP is a focus on building inclusive communities. The AARP Livability Index uses many of the factors that capture much of what creates healthy, livable, and sustainable communities. Communities which are age-friendly toward older adults are considered to be more inclusive, with safe, good quality, affordable housing. In addition to housing, the built environment is healthy, with strong ratings for community safety, good public transportation, and natural resources. The health care system has strong ratings, including quality hospital care, and other health-related factors. Finally, communities are rated on their quality of life: civic engagement in neighborhood groups, nonprofits and volunteering, political organizations, and opportunities for older adults.

AARP’s age-friendly ratings are helpful not only for people looking to compare communities, but for other communities as well. This could become an important benchmark that can set the healthiest, most age-friendly communities apart from others, and serve as an important stamp of approval.

Kudos for AARP’s work sharing this information about age-friendly communities throughout their large network, and giving great press to those communities that are focused on being age-friendly.

Other Key Elements

Other elements that are important to communities seeking to be more ready to deal with the increasing proportion of older adults include trend analysis. It’s important for communities and states to understand how trends will shape their communities, and what they need to do to respond proactively. We include this level of trend analysis in our Aging Social Impact Calculator

This calculator allows communities and states to predict the impact of aging on communities, and includes the age-friendly ratings as one of over a dozen elements. Our calculator is predictive, and serves as a cost-effective guide. It includes: (1) population trends in terms of aging, population inflows and outflows, (2) economic trend benchmarks, and (3) state and local policies that impact age-related funding and community resources.

Our program also helps planners to understand and analyze the negative impacts of ageism, and to understand and utilize that assets that older adults bring to communities.

For more information, check out:, or contact me directly at: [email protected] 

Anne Hays Egan, New Ventures Consulting, Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.