Due to the demographic shift towards an aging society, many communities in the United States have grown their focus on age-friendly communities. To develop communities for all age groups, promoting intergenerational relationships has been underlined. In 2016, the City of Columbus completed a survey with older adults age 50 and over to identify accessibility to services, amenities, and opportunities that keep older adults’ lives more productive and healthier. The purpose of this study was to identify intergenerational contact in Columbus to suggest location-based interventions for the age-friendliness of the City. The research questions were 1) are there any geographic relationships between densities of older and younger populations and older adults’ perceptions of age-friendliness of their neighborhoods? 2) what are geographic opportunities for older adults’ lifelong learning? 3) what is potential for intergenerational engagement for people from all age groups?
The study utilize spatial analysis using a GIS (geographic information system) to capture and present spatial and geographic data representing intergenerational dynamics in the City. The demographic data were attained from Census. Older adults’ perceptions on age-friendliness of their neighborhoods were identified through the Age-Friendly Columbus survey conducted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). As a result, 762 older adults responded to the question. Geographic data on senior facilities, schools, and public libraries came from the MORPC regional data catalog. Additionally, the addresses of child care centers were collected from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In total, 729 child care centers were identified and geocoded.
Four maps were created to show older adults’ perception on age-friendliness of their neighborhoods depending on the population density and availability of essential facilities. First, in Columbus, there are certain areas with higher density of older adults living although older adults’ perceptions on age-friendliness are not necessarily related to the older or younger population density. Secondly, senior facilities are mainly located where there are greater proportions of older populations. Thirdly, opportunities for university-based lifelong are limited and they are located further from many older adults. Lastly, senior facilities are located near multiple child care centers indicating that the City has potential to develop intergenerational programs between senior facilities and child day centers.
Conclusions and Implications:
It is critical to develop communities that are not age-segregated and provide opportunities enhancing intergenerational bonds. Senior facilities should be developed in more diverse communities. Moreover, lifelong learning opportunities for older adults should be geographically equally given. It is important to utilize library resources as public libraries are more widely located throughout the City. Not only for lifelong learning purposes, should they also offer workshops and seminars that help older adults access to community resources. It is important to note that intergenerational engagement should be promoted not only for healthy older adults but also for frail and vulnerable older adults in the community. All cities should be equipped to provide services and opportunities available to both older and younger generations to promote meaningful and healthy community life.