Let’s Talk Community Livability

The Triangle J Council of Governments region is facing the prospect for continued significant growth. Projections indicate that our region increase by another 1 million residents during the next generation.  Equally significant is how our regional demographics will change over this time period, particularly the growth of older adults. In 2014, our region had 241,835 residents age 65 and over. This figure will more than double by 2034, hitting 529,791 residents across the region. By 2034, the total population of residents age 65 and over will be more than the total populations of Chatham, Lee, Moore and Orange Counties, combined.

The growth of the population of older adults, coupled with the shift in demographics, means that our member governments are discussing livability issues around this population more and more. A growing senior population means that our members must think about how a wide array of factors, e.g. public facilities, local government services and codes, adapt to serve the changes in population.

While special attention must be given to our senior population, there is interesting research that supports the notion that making a community more livable for seniors will make the community better for everyone. The 8-80 Cities organization is a non-profit that promotes practices for local governments under the premise that what works for senior populations will work for the entire community. You can check them out at http://www.880cities.org.  Additionally, there are some additional articles and opinion pieces which advocate for more universal design. Some of those are below:

http://www.urbancincy.com/2014/04/apa14-demographic-preferences-shifting-in-favor-of-walkable-urban-communities/

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2012/04/future-urban-housing/1672/

The bottom line is planning for senior livability is an important discussion that is occurring across our region and the more these conversations occur, the better it will be for all of us. For this reason,  TJCOG staff created our Livability Assessment & Toolkit for Local Governments tool in 2013 and updated the tool to reflect new changes over the last year. It’s important to us that we assist our member governments with this critical issue.

The tool is based on research at Stanford University and is set up in a way where local governments can easily use the Excel-based product and input their community data. The tool will produce a score, which can be used as a basis for further conversation about the local government’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to livability. The tool is free to our member governments, but our staff is ready to assist any member government with completion of the tool or identify initial recommendations for next steps. Our expertise in both Aging Services and Planning offers unique insight into strategies for improving livability.

Several of our members have already expressed interest in the tool. TJCOG staff will be working with the Town of Smithfield to complete the assessment. In addition, our Planner Julia Katz recently presented the tool to a joint meeting of the Durham County Commissioners and Durham City Council.

Community livability will continue to be a challenge in the coming years. We are here and ready to assist you in tackling it! If you have interest in discussing the tool further, feel free to reach out to me at lworsley@tjcog.org or to Julia Katz at jkatz@tjcog.org.

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