Methods: In the first phase of this mixed methods study, online surveys were sent to city planners/directors of community development, county directors of aging services, employees of county transportation authorities, and employees of public transit providers. The surveys asked questions about 22 policies and programs that fall within five broad components of an aging-friendly community: community design (e.g., incentives for mixed-use neighborhoods), housing (e.g., home modification assistance), transportation (e.g., senior vans), health and supportive services (e.g., preventive health programs, and opportunities for community involvement (e.g., volunteer programs).
Results: More than 50% of those sampled responded to the survey. The most common policies and programs reported by city planners include improvements in the walkability of the city by such measures as sidewalk repair, traffic calming, and the construction of new pedestrian pathways. Fewer cities, however, offer incentives to developers to build senior housing or incorporate accessible housing features. County aging services directors report that they provide supportive services such as legal assistance, home delivered meals, and senior centers, but few offer programs designed to increase older resident community engagement. The majority of public transit providers have implemented measures to increase the accessibility of buses and trains, including driver sensitivity training, operating low-floor buses, and offering older adults discounted fares at all times. Some cities and counties also assist with senior mobility through the provision of shuttle services and infrastructure changes to improve older driver safety.
Implications: It appears that many cities and counties in the Bay Area are preparing for the aging of their populations by adopting and implementing policies and programs that may help older adults age in place in their homes and communities. There is a great deal of variation, however, among these local governments. These survey results will be explored in greater depth in the second phase of this mixed methods study, which will involve qualitative interviews with survey respondents to explore the factors influencing their decision to adopt these policies and programs.