Keeping Elders in the Community: Part II

The solution may be located just outside the nearest city.

seniors, sustainable communities, elders, senior housing, neighborhood revitalization, walkability, zoning, pedestrians


Amy Carpenter


Marguerite Anglin


Brittany Coyle

Many "streetcar suburbs" near older cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, DC offer great settings for seniors. Similar to urban areas, these highly "walkable" communities can provide a variety of amenities. Here are several strategies for optimizing these suburban neighborhoods to allow different housing options for elders:

Build on infill sites: Cluster the development of small, universally designed homes to allow elders to stay in the community they know and love. Ideally, these should be located close to amenities like transit and shopping.

Backyard cottages: This concept involves building a small house in your yard. This way, Mom lives near you, just not under the same roof. Several companies have begun to sell house plans or complete pre-fab homes that can be delivered to your door. A variance from or changes to the local zoning code may be required, but more communities are recognizing this as a solution to a critical need.

Re-purpose commercial spaces: As the market for office and retail space has softened, many of these spaces are vacant. What about turning an available pad site at the local mall into elder housing? Think about it. Malls provide easy access to shopping, personal services (hair and nails), and restaurants. Almost all have transit connections nearby. Indoor malls also provide a safe and climate controlled place to walk and socialize. Add some medical offices at another pad site and we're off and running!