Wider sidewalks, front door thresholds with no step up, buttons on traffic signals that give pedestrians a bit longer to cross the street. These are some of the design elements Arlington County, Va., has adopted in recent years to help aging baby boomers stay in their homes. From architectural tweaks to rethinking car-centric suburbs, we examine local efforts to design communities that accommodate a graying population.


  • Roger Lewis Architect; Columnist, "Shaping the City," Washington Post; and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park
  • Terri Lynch Director, Arlington Agency on Aging

Photos: Designing For An Aging Community

Arlington County officials appointed an Elder Readiness Task Force in February 2006 and charged it with assessing the county’s capacity to serve a growing number of older people. The group created a blueprint for strategies to enable Arlington residents to age in place. Recommendations include wider sidewalks, upgraded traffic signals that support pedestrian crossing, and training for people who need help learning how to use Metrobus, Metrorail or ART, Arlington’s bus system. View examples of how some of the recommendations have already been implemented:


  • 12:07:55

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. For some people, it's a rite of passage: retire, sell the house and decamp for a sunny condo in Florida. But as baby boomers head toward retirement in huge numbers, many don't see themselves as snowbirds. They want to keep their theater tickets and their friends.

  • 12:08:31

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThey want to stay home and grow old here. The graying of the population is presenting new challenges for planners and for architects. Already, one in four households includes someone 65 years or older. By the year 2030, nearly one-fifth of U.S. residents will be 65 and older. So how do you build homes that can adapt to the different stages of life, including old age? How do you communities that serve people who no longer drive, for instance?

  • 12:09:01

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIn Arlington County, Va., a task force is working on answers like walk signals that stay green longer so seniors can cross the street safely and redevelopment that includes more senior centers with subsidized taxi service to get there. Joining me to talk about designing for an aging population is Roger Lewis. He's an architect and the "Shaping the City" columnist for The Washington Post. He's also professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland College Park. Roger, welcome.

  • 12:09:32

    MR. ROGER LEWISThank you. Nice to be here again.

  • 12:09:34

    NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Terri Lynch, who is director of the Arlington Agency on Aging. Terri Lynch, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:09:44

    MS. TERRI LYNCHThank you for having me.

  • 12:09:45

    NNAMDIAnd, of course, you, too, can join the conversation by calling us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Will your current home still be livable as you continue to get older? 800-433-8850. Terri Lynch, Arlington County is at the forefront of the effort to prepare for the graying of the baby boom generation. But this will not be the first big wave of older residents. Talk about the history of Arlington's senior population beginning with the boom apparently in the 1970s.

  • 12:10:19

    LYNCHYou are exactly right, Kojo. Arlington, as people know, was a bedroom community at the time of World War II, and government girls came here to work in large numbers. And so by the time you got to the '50s, people had settled. Arlington was an affordable place to live. And by the time you got to the 1970s, those people, in fact, had aged. They were 60-plus. They started to need services, and the county started looking for ways to address service needs then.

  • 12:10:57

    NNAMDIAs early as the 1970s, Roger, to what extent are communities preparing to accommodate this upcoming surge of older residents? Is that something that's getting a lot of attention in planning circles these days?

  • 12:11:09

    LEWISI think it's getting a lot of attention, a lot more than it used to. We've had for a long time laws and regulations and policies concerning designing housing, for example, building housing for the elderly. We all know that we get discounts if we're over 65, if we partake of certain services and products and so forth.

  • 12:11:29

    LEWISBut as far as the built environment as a whole, urban and townscape environments were just getting to the point of looking at that the way we should, that is to say at a micro rather than a macro level and looking at, as you mentioned, doing things such as rethinking how long a signal should be for allowing someone to cross a street or for that matter in some places even marking a crosswalk. I can't tell you how many places there are in this metropolitan area where to find a crosswalk that's marked can be a challenge.

  • 12:12:07

    NNAMDIWhat's the appeal of aging in place? Is the idea of retiring to a golf course community in Florida less popular, somehow less appealing than it used to be?

  • 12:12:15

    LEWISWell, I think it's still appealing to a lot of people. I mean there are still a lot of such communities, but I think there are an increasing number of people like myself aging in place in my seven-level stair-filled house. I keep saying they're going to carry me out. But I think a lot of people who are seniors are increasingly desirous of living in communities that they know that they've spent many years if not decades in where they have roots, where they have connections, where they know where to buy things, et cetera, et cetera.

  • 12:12:49

    LEWISI think that's what increasing. I think there's an awareness that we don't necessarily have to sell the house after the dog has died and the kids are grown and move to wherever.

  • 12:12:59

    NNAMDIAre Roger and I just prejudiced in this regard or is this -- are we a part of a trend?

  • 12:13:04

    LYNCHYou are part of a trend.

  • 12:13:06

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 12:13:06

    LYNCHThe other thing to look at is people like options. Not everybody lives in urban areas. Not everybody lives in rural areas. Some live in single-family homes. Some live in condos. Some live in high-rise apartments. It's options and choices that people want.

  • 12:13:21

    NNAMDIIn 2006, Arlington appointed an elder-readiness task force. It's charged to development a blueprint for strategies that will help Arlington residents age in place. One result is the so-called vertical village at Wildwood Park. What is that, and what's the goal of the project?

  • 12:13:39

    LYNCHThat's an interesting project because what we look in terms of housing, some people like to stay living in their apartment they've lived in, in some cases for well over 20 years. How do we make it possible for people to stay? And that is for people who start to have aging-related problems, and that's by no means the majority of older people, but for people who start --how do we make it easy for them to access services, how do we develop a community?

  • 12:14:11

    LYNCHPeople who live apartments know that very often don't know the people who live down the hall, much less somebody on another floor. The purpose is to create community and make it easy to access services.

  • 12:14:23

    NNAMDII guess we're not all going to fall. We're not all going to have hip replacement surgery. But enough of us are so that if you design communities for people of a certain age, you have to include those possibilities, probabilities, likelihoods.

  • 12:14:37

    LYNCHThat's right. And then you can -- what you can call is wraparound services so that people have to have only the ones they need for the length of time they need it and no more. It also gets more affordable for people when they can just get the little bit they need at the time they need it.

  • 12:14:54

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. What community do you live in now, and how well does it meet the needs of its older residents? 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Terri Lynch, how is the redevelopment of a five-mile stretch of Columbia Pike in Arlington being redesigned with seniors in mind?

  • 12:15:15

    LYNCHCounty has some very specific ideas on how to make things pedestrian-friendly so that people have easy access to walking and to stores and -- 'cause actually walking is one of the major forms of getting around for everybody. They -- the county now has a policy that sidewalks will be even. There was the rage of putting bricks in place, and they found that people fell, that was tripping, that would be fine for a year, and then it will fall apart. So you see more and more easy walking wider sidewalks so people can pass and trying to move housing near to transportation to where the housing is.

  • 12:15:56

    NNAMDIRoger, we've talked with you about universal design before. What are some of the features that help make buildings function well for older adults like wider doorways and no step-up into the house?

  • 12:16:08

    LEWISWell, those are two very good things. I mean, I should preface this by saying that the ideal about universal -- there's a universal design -- is it's universal. That is we can imagine -- we architects would ideally like to be able to design buildings and environments that work for everybody, including seniors. I mean, I think that that's the ultimate goal is that we should be able now in this day and age to design places that work for everybody, including people who have impairments.

  • 12:16:41

    LEWISAnd we know how to do that. We're much closer to being able to achieve it than we used to be because we understand how people work both psychologically and physiologically. I think the -- but you mentioned things like eliminating steps, good lighting, having sidewalks and corridors sufficiently wide, designing kitchens and bathrooms so that if you're five-four or five-two, it works for you as well as for someone who's six-two or six-four.

  • 12:17:16

    LEWISThat's more of a challenge, by the way, because anyone who's spent time in the kitchen knows that the counter might be ideal for the husband and not -- and less ideal for the wife or vice versa. There's a lot -- a lot of it has to do with dimensioning things, with making legibility, illumination, signage, direction finding signage, identification signage, making -- creating places to sit down.

  • 12:17:45

    LEWISI mean, just how many people listening to the show have been somewhere -- we're telling them it's time to sit down for a few minutes, and you couldn't find a place to sit or the place to sit was soaking wet or covered with ice and snow. I mean, when you begin to analyze it in great detail, you realize that we could design our environment so it works for everybody from age 5 to 85.

  • 12:18:08

    NNAMDIAnother concept that I find fascinating in this realm is visitability, the notion that even if you don't need these features yet in your home or in your building, your home should be able to accommodate guests who do.

  • 12:18:22

    LEWISYes. Well, I'm very sensitive to that because my living room is full of furniture bought about 35 years ago, mostly from Italy, which just looked wonderful, and it was very comfortable. But now, it's very low. So I -- we have guests, and sometimes myself, you -- it's easy to sit down in it, but getting out of it can be a challenge.

  • 12:18:45

    LEWISI mean, that sounds trivial, but, in fact, it's another illustration of how -- what maybe worked for people when they're 25 or 30 may not work as well when they're 75 or 80. So I think the -- I think our goal -- what we need to do is just rethink how we create the built environment so that it really does aspire to being universal.

  • 12:19:08

    NNAMDIYour turn, Terri Lynch.

  • 12:19:10

    LYNCHI'd like to also add that the term visitability can -- when you build something initially, a single-family home, it costs no more at all, $200, that's been the study, than to create something that has steps. And visitability has a few features. There's a no-step entrance, a wider door, a bathroom that is on the space that has livability programs. It's not much. It's the idea of changing people from thinking that they have to have columns. They have to have stairs for how it looks. It's very simple. And then people can stay there.

  • 12:19:48

    NNAMDIYou mentioned is very simple. Roger, there are some residential design elements that are, as Terry said, fairly simple that affect, however, an older person's ability to function well in a home. You mentioned the height of table. But there are things like faucet fixtures.

  • 12:20:03

    LEWISYeah. Yeah. I mean, for example, someone who has serious arthritis or joint problems can actually have trouble manipulating certain things -- appliances, the valves on spigots and faucets and so forth. I mean, again, in the -- after the ADA, the Americans with Disability Act, was passed, there are standards that were promulgated addressing these things for -- aimed mainly at housing, specifically aimed at the elderly, you know, aimed at -- house people who are aging.

  • 12:20:38

    LEWISThe fact is, again, we can put hardware -- I mean, generalize it as hardware --into buildings that works for everybody. I mean, there is nothing to keep us from making sure that a lavatory works for anybody.

  • 12:20:53

    NNAMDIAnd you talk about adaptable building, Terri Lynch. You talked about the no-step entrances and the no-step entrance to the bathroom. You're pushing adaptable construction. It's fine when you move in. But if you break your hip and you need to grab a grab bar in the shower, you can add one fairly easily. That probably doesn't cost a lot.

  • 12:21:10

    LYNCHThat's exactly right. If you build it in an adaptable way, which means you have the studs in the back that you can put the grab bar in when you need it, it's very cheap to add it. If you have to tear the wall down in order to add something like that, it becomes very expensive. It is nothing at the time of construction.

  • 12:21:29

    LEWISAnd I should footnote that by saying probably having a grab bar in a shower or tub is a good idea anyway.

  • 12:21:35

    NNAMDII was about to say, I've needed a grab bar since I was a child.

  • 12:21:37

    LEWISI mean, I...

  • 12:21:38

    NNAMDII've been slipping in tubs and showers since I was a kid.

  • 12:21:40

    LEWISYou know, I can remember bathing our son when he was an infant. And it would've been nice to be able to sort of lean over the tub and have something to hold on to rather than the soap dish, which, of course, is probably the worse thing to hold on to.

  • 12:21:51

    NNAMDIThank you very much. We move on to the phones. Put your headphones on, Terri Lynch, because we're going to talk with Kim in Spotsylvania, Va. Kim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:22:01

    KIMHi. Thanks for taking my call.

  • 12:22:04

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:22:04

    KIMI just had a couple of ideas since both of my parents are elderly, and they did have a house built. And the builder did not listen to a lot of the things that my mother thought she needed and some he did. So I just wanted to give you a few ideas, if that's OK?

  • 12:22:17


  • 12:22:19

    KIMThe outlet -- to raise the outlet made it a lot easier whether they were standing or in a wheelchair. And the light switches to bring them down just a little bit for when they are in a wheelchair. And door handles, no turning once, just have the lever ones throughout the whole house.

  • 12:22:39


  • 12:22:40

    KIMAnd any of these doorways that they're going to ever consider going into to make sure that they're all wide enough for a big size, not just a regular wheelchair but a big size wheelchair since a lot of people are heavier these days, and also that the doors to these rooms would come out not into the room and take up that much more space. They're not being able to turn around in wheelchairs, such as the bathroom, bedroom, any of them.

  • 12:23:08

    KIMAnd I think the most important, as far as worrying, having older people worry is the backup system for their power and whether that's a whole house generator or is there a certain battery power that you can attach so that they're on any kind of machines or just basic heat. I don't know how much power that would need. But just to have the backup system or know who they can call would really make a big difference.

  • 12:23:40

    NNAMDIRoger Lewis, are backup systems now become more -- becoming more available and accessible than they used to be?

  • 12:23:46

    LEWISWell, they're available. I mean, I -- power -- auxiliary generators is what she's talking about. They are certainly accessible. They have their own problems. I mean, I think that...

  • 12:23:54


  • 12:23:55

    LEWISI think that the backup -- certainly, in our house, the backup is a bunch of flashlights and candles. I -- installing an auxiliary power generator in a, you know, for -- in a one or two or three-bedroom home or apartment is not particularly practical. It's very expensive to maintain. And actually, they can be hazardous if not properly managed. I mean, I think that what we -- I think we should probably continue to primarily rely on the power grid.

  • 12:24:33

    LEWISWhat we need to do is improve our power grid in this country. It's an infrastructure problem. I think that when you get into apartment buildings, however, when you get into larger facilities, whether they're health care facilities or apartment buildings or schools, then having backup power generation capability is absolutely indispensable.

  • 12:24:51

    NNAMDIKim, thank you very much for your call and for your suggestions. Terri Lynch, transportation is a big concern for seniors especially those who don't drive anymore. Talk about the bus, taxi and bicycle options that Arlington is providing for older residents.

  • 12:25:05

    LYNCHWell, let me do them backwards from the way you said it. Bicycles, the county has been promoting bikes for a number of years. And it has really quite an extensive bike pass for people to do exercise and commute 'cause a lot of older workers still commute. So bikes are extensive, and there are clubs now that are teaching people to bike and going around. So that's exciting. Buses, we now have a fleet of low floor buses so that if people have a beginnings of mobility impairment, it's very easy for them to get on the ramp and walk up to the bus.

  • 12:25:40

    LYNCHAnd it's getting more extensive around Arlington. We use taxi cabs. Arlington is a very small community, 25 square miles. So it's easy to make use of the cabs that are there for variety of services. And the county also sponsors a program that we call SST, Super Senior Taxi, so that if a person is a super senior, defined in this case is 70 and over, they can buy $20 books of taxi vouchers. And they can buy them for $10, so half price, and they can get 20 a year.

  • 12:26:17

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Brett in Washington, D.C. Brett, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:26:23

    MR. BRETT VAN AKKERENHi, Kojo. Thank you. Hi, my name is Brett Van Akkeren, and I work at the Environmental Protection Agency on sustainable communities for older adults. And I just wanted to talk about -- well, first of all, I wanted to comment on the last comment which was I think it's very important to -- when we're talking about older adults, talk about differently-abled older adults. And a lot of people are under the illusion when people aren't able to drive, they're going to walk, bike or take transit.

  • 12:26:50

    MR. BRETT VAN AKKERENBut a car is probably the number one assistive device used by people in this country. It's far easier to drive than it is to walk to a bus stop or ride a bike or something like that. That sort of level has to be done with younger older adults to keep them fit, so they don't become disabled older adults as they get older. So that's my first comment. My second comment is the -- there are two examples, one local and one national, that I think are good places to look.

  • 12:27:20

    MR. BRETT VAN AKKERENOne, actually in our own county, Clarendon has become an informal older adult neighborhood as people in the area who live in (unintelligible) neighborhood either become empty nesters or divorced or whatever, have moved in to a lot of the new apartment buildings right around the Metro Station when Clarendon redeveloped.

  • 12:27:37


  • 12:27:38

    AKKERENThis actually created this informal system. And then the last, the second...

  • 12:27:42

    NNAMDIWhat's the system you're talking about?

  • 12:27:44

    AKKERENWell, it's just -- all of a sudden, Clarendon has become basically an informal older -- old -- young older adult community as the neighborhood is -- just by its design is inherently good for older adults. There's Metro there.

  • 12:27:57


  • 12:27:57

    AKKERENIt's walkable. There's services nearby, et cetera, et cetera. And then the other concept is in Atlanta, they have a concept that they call life-long communities program. It basically -- they do the same thing, but they are focusing on this idea that both older adults and children are sort of the indicator species of a livable community and that if you design it for one -- you know, zero step entrances work really well for people who are on walkers.

  • 12:28:22

    AKKERENThey also work very well for a mother who's got a stroller and two kids. So the idea is when you're designing communities. Even though they accommodate older adults well, it actually accommodates everybody in the community. And they've been big leaders in design of communities in the area, and they have done these design (word?) in five different communities in the...

  • 12:28:44

    NNAMDIFascinating that you should mention that, Brett, because after we take a short break and we come back, we'll also talk about communities in which seniors and singles seem to making out better than families with children. It's a conversation about designing for an aging population. Brett, thank you very much for your call.

  • 12:29:01

    NNAMDIYou can join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. Do you intend to age in place? How do you intend to accomplish it? You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:37:14

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on designing for an aging population. We're talking with Terri Lynch, director of the Arlington Agency on Aging, and Roger Lewis, who joins us on a regular basis. He's an architect and the "Shaping the City" columnist for The Washington Post. Roger is also a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland College Park.

  • 12:37:33

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call, 800-433-8850, or send an email to kojo@wamu.org. Will your current home still be livable as you continue to get older, or have you been making adjustments in your home to make sure it is? 800-433-8850. Roger, mixed-use developments are popular now with retail or restaurants on the ground floor and apartments or condos above. In many ways, they're very appealing for older people. How well do these new developments meet the needs of seniors?

  • 12:38:07

    LEWISWell, I think a lot of them will meet the needs of seniors. I believe that most of these that I've become familiar within in the Washington metro area, developments or developments that are mixed-use in higher density and near transit, are going to be very attractive to seniors, probably because they will be complying with ADA requirements.

  • 12:38:28

    LEWISThey will be accessible. They -- and they will have these attributes that we've been talking about, walkability therein. And the communities -- we're creating these communities either redevelopment them -- redeveloping them or developing them de novo, in fact, to appeal to that demographic. But it's the same appeal that will bring in the 32-year-olds.

  • 12:38:54

    NNAMDIThat's what I was suggested to our earlier caller, yes.

  • 12:38:56

    LEWISI mean, what it's -- as you alluded to earlier, what it won't do is necessarily respond to the needs of a family with young kids, where the school -- the availability of schools, affordability of schools and, you know, having that backyard to run around in. I mean, I think that's what's not necessarily going to show up in a lot of these new communities. I think what we're going to see -- if I can just be predictive for a second -- is that increasingly, these developments you referred to are going to be younger people without kids or certainly without school-age kids and seniors.

  • 12:39:33

    LEWISAnd the people who, you know, the homes those seniors will have sold, presumably many of them in the suburbs and exurbs, will probably be acquired and lived in by the people who are in that part of life where they've got kids that need to be in schools. And I think that's the general trend we're going to see.

  • 12:39:56

    NNAMDIHow was the aging population challenging the traditional suburban notion of housing? A four-bedroom, single-family house isn't always practical for an older couple or a widow or widower. Some people want to see unused bedrooms in single-family homes rented out as affordable housing for seniors. Why is that, for instance, often illegal?

  • 12:40:18

    LYNCHWell, in Arlington, we do have a program where people can rent out a single room. We have a special and accessory -- approved accessory dwelling ordinance that people can rent out a room if they can also -- renting a single room is never an issue in Arlington for as long as you don't have more than four unrelated people living together. If you're going to create a separate apartment, then you have to try and find -- follow the regulations. But renting a room is done all the time.

  • 12:40:51

    NNAMDIRoger, the aging population challenging the traditional suburban notion of housing?

  • 12:40:57

    LEWISWell, I think the -- extending the discussion about accessory dwellings, I know this have been a very controversial issue in Montgomery County. I believe that the District of Columbia, in its zoning rewrite, is trying to include provisions for allowing accessory dwellings. That is to say not just a room for rent, but an apartment, one- or two-bedroom or a studio kind of apartment that might be over a garage or it might be in the backyard. I think -- there are a lot of issues.

  • 12:41:27

    LEWISI mean, I think this is a -- we can't get into all the issues that come up here, everything from people worrying about parking to density and property values, et cetera. I mean, I think the reality again is that there's a lot to be said for rethinking "the single family subdivision template" where it's presumed that there will be a mom, a dad, 2.3 kids, two dogs and a side yard, front yard and backyard.

  • 12:42:02

    LEWISI think that -- I think we are going to have to seriously consider the notion that on that property could be another household even though it might be grandma or mother-in-law or an au pair person. I mean, I think that we need to allow for that. And I think a lot of the fears are unjustified. A lot of the anxieties at least that I've heard voiced in places like Montgomery County are not really -- are bogus. I don't think they're justifiable.

  • 12:42:29

    NNAMDIHere is Ellen in Washington, D.C. Ellen, your turn. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:42:33

    ELLENOh, hi, Kojo. I'm a fan of yours and also a delighted member of the Dupont Circle Village. I live near Dupont Circle in Northwest D.C. And that's one of a national network, and its whole modus operandi is to keep seniors at home. I'm a seasoned citizen myself. And they do everything. They have a network of volunteers.

  • 12:42:56

    ELLENThey have -- they plan outings. They will, you know, if you get in a bind, they have a downsizing group. They have wonderful retired volunteers and more able-bodied volunteers who will help you out with everything. And membership is based on your income. And they sure have helped me a lot. I love them.

  • 12:43:18

    NNAMDIAnd you happen to be living in one of the more occupied parts of the city where you have all kinds of restaurants and music, et cetera, nearby.

  • 12:43:28

    ELLENI'm a block from the Starbucks, and I'm a block from Connecticut Avenue. And they're terrific. And if you're downsizing, which I was, and need to do a big clear out, they have people who will come and help you do that. And what they do, Kojo, is they put together a team for you. Say, you say, gee, I'm really -- my landlord is coming over, and I need to downsize in a hurry.

  • 12:43:51

    ELLENThey will call their -- they will send out a notice to their volunteer groups, and people who are good at that will come over. And one will handle your art and one will handle the books and one will handle the other. And they'll save your bacon.

  • 12:44:04

    NNAMDIAnything comparable to that in Arlington, Terri Lynch?

  • 12:44:07

    LYNCHArlington is in the process of developing one now. There are about six people who are planning for it. They have started a pilot in a couple of neighborhoods. And they expect to be full blown with what they're calling the hub-and-spoke models. So there will be a single non-profit, and then neighborhoods work under it, yep.

  • 12:44:24

    NNAMDIEllen, thank you very much for your call. And I think Mary in Silver Spring may be looking for a community like that. Mary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:44:32

    MARYI'm already in the community. It's an Erickson property. It's called Riderwood. It's out 29. And it's five miles from where I lived. And I was adamant about staying, aging in place. And my husband died. And I was, you know, I had to do the shoveling of the snow back -- it was a few years ago when we had it up to our hips. And I re-assessed. And I feel badly because I really encouraged some of my other neighbors, you know, we're going to stay here together onward and upward.

  • 12:45:05

    MARYBut it gets to be too much after a certain amount of time. And I was very fortunate I found Riderwood, and I've been here a year. And I just -- it's much easier if you move in together. And I've noticed that, couples moving in. Before, you're in a position I was in. And -- anyway, I just want to say something. If my neighbors are hearing, I'm sorry if I discouraged you from moving...

  • 12:45:37

    MARY...because it is -- it changes so hard, and we have to help each other. And I think that everything you people have said seems like you're all a bunch of helping people and it's wonderful. Thank you.

  • 12:45:49

    NNAMDIMary, thank you very much, and I'm glad it worked out for you. In Arlington County and the rest of the region, let's take a look at the economics. What are the economics of choosing where to live in your senior years, Terri Lynch?

  • 12:46:01

    LYNCHWe have to decide -- first of all, your choice of what you'd like to do and then whether your income can help you do what it is you want. Talk about -- Riderwood is one of a number of assisted living or continuing care retirement communities that people can go to. At the moment in this metropolitan area, it's available to people whose income has always been very high. Or because housing prices went up, values went up so much over the last 30 years that people had -- have a house they could sell.

  • 12:46:36

    LYNCHBut for people who did not have a house they could sell or did not have high income, we don't have in this metro area a really good set of housing options that have services as part of that. And that's one of the things we're working on.

  • 12:46:52

    NNAMDIRoger, you kind of started this conversation earlier, but I'd like to make it more specific. You've been looking at City Place, that's the redevelopment of the old D.C. Convention Center site on H Street. What are your thoughts when you were looking at it?

  • 12:47:05

    LEWISWell, the condominiums that are being developed there are studios, one- and a few two-bedrooms, and they're extremely expensive. I mean, I think this economic issue, we needed to get around to this because I think, really -- Terri has touched an important thing, which is that there are a lot of people as they age in the society who are going to really be struggling no matter what they decide, whether they want to age in place or not because most of what's being built or being converted.

  • 12:47:39

    LEWISThe price tag, whether it's rental or condominium or for sale is just not affordable by a certain -- quite substantial segment of the population. I -- in my career in my firm years ago in the '70s, before Mr. Reagan killed a lot of the federal programs, I designed a number of housing for the elderly projects in -- mostly in Maryland. And these were projects -- we're not doing these anymore, but these were projects aimed specifically at aging tenants. They were rentals, Section 8 subsidy. They were subsidized, and they were specifically for people who had very, very limited incomes.

  • 12:48:22

    LEWISAnd they were very successful, actually. But they are not -- they were -- they all involved building a little village, a mini village somewhere. For example, in Chestertown Md., I did a couple of projects in Chestertown, Md. in the Eastern Shore. And while it was very comfortable for the people who lived there, they had to move from somewhere else. Getting to services was always a challenge.

  • 12:48:48

    LEWISI think the village movement -- I specifically used the word village because that, again, is about finding a way to allow people, enable people to stay where they are and still manage to enjoy all of the attributes and advantages of living in fact in a community where there are people that they know and they can get services and they know how to get to the doctor or someone helps them get to a doctor's appointment, et cetera. I mean, those are -- I've -- but we're going to need -- the reality is that there are some part of population that's going to need subsidy to do this.

  • 12:49:20

    NNAMDIAnd on the higher end, when you are looking at City Place, you could imagine people who were looking to stay in the area.

  • 12:49:27

    LEWISYes. And...

  • 12:49:28

    NNAMDIBut who'd be selling their houses?

  • 12:49:29

    LEWISYeah, yeah. This -- the people who are going to buy those condominiums are either, you know, 35-year-old, very well-paid lawyers, young partners at law firms or people who've sold their house out in whatever for, you know, $900,000 and they can afford to buy one of these condos.

  • 12:49:45

    NNAMDIAnd be downtown and have all of the amenities available there. Terri Lynch.

  • 12:49:48

    LYNCHI want to add to things that Roger had talked about, having done those years ago created special housing for low-income older people. In Arlington, we have five such buildings, and guess what, people aged in place in those buildings. And the way we help and taught us what we're looking at now is we wrapped services around those people. They're low income. They're eligible for many of the county-subsidized or county-offered programs or the non-profit ones.

  • 12:50:18

    LYNCHAnd that's what -- but that still begs the question of what happens for all those folks, and that's where the Village Movement comes in. What we call the vertical village and the horizontal villages in the neighborhood is how do we wrap services for people who need it around where they live.

  • 12:50:33

    NNAMDIHere is Claire in Alexandria, Va. Claire, your turn.

  • 12:50:37

    CLAIREYes. Good afternoon to all of you, and thank you for taking my call. I wanted to make two points. And the first thing that when a plan -- when a family plans, whatever their income and resources are, so many in the family benefit. And I'm speaking in somewhat to the caller earlier that mentioned that her parents had modified their home to accommodate their aging. And my mother and my stepfather did the same during their 80's. They did these 20 years ago.

  • 12:51:02

    CLAIREIt was not really something that the builder wanted to do, but they were able to do it. But we were fortunate that they had planned well and had the resources to do that. The benefit is, as the child of aging parents, there has been less worry and more security in my family. And for others I know that haven't been as fortunate, I know that children often worry and there can be a lot of concerns. So I encourage anyone to have a discussion with their parents if they haven't already done so.

  • 12:51:30

    CLAIREBut with that said, they planned this beautiful home. It was in the country. And now they need access to more of the emergency services and doctors need to be closer. They've had a little problem selling their home, but it looks like someone else with similar needs are going to buy it. But they have been looking at a community -- they're in Texas -- called Miller Airport. And I believe it sounds like it's a village community, what you're speaking of, with the benefits of having mobility.

  • 12:51:58

    CLAIREMy stepfather who was once very active is now limited to a scooter. And this community has scooter mobility. He can go from a green energy home that they have that's modified for the aging and go all the way to the airport and not lose his independence. So I just wanted to make that. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 12:52:15

    NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much. We're running out of time very quickly, Claire. But, Roger, I've seen a bunch of expressions that described the vitality of the senior population, 80 is the new 60, or this is not your grandmother's aging. Retirees are living longer and better than ever before. How will that affect urban design in the long term, do you think?

  • 12:52:35

    LEWISWell, I think it goes back to what we mentioned at the top of the hour. I think that the -- we are going to see increasingly the creation of walkable communities and communities with access to far more services as opposed to segregating uses. I just wrote a piece about the obsolescence of zoning as a concept.

  • 12:52:55

    LEWISThe -- I think that we -- all the people in my profession are thinking, I think, pretty much the same way, that we need to now build in the 21st century places that are truly universal in the sense that they work for everybody, and that they don't require getting in a car and driving 14 miles to get a hospital or three miles to get to a supermarket or a place to buy groceries.

  • 12:53:20

    LEWISSo I -- it's affecting urban design at that level, and it's affecting urban design as we talked earlier about, you know, how do you design a crosswalk that works for everybody? How do you make sure that you have adequate lighting and public spaces?

  • 12:53:35

    NNAMDIRoger Lewis, he is an architect and he is the "Shaping the City" columnist for The Washington Post. He's also professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland College Park. Roger, thank you for joining us. Always a pleasure.

  • 12:53:45

    LEWISThank you.

  • 12:53:46

    NNAMDITerri Lynch is director of the Arlington Agency on Aging. Terri Lynch, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:53:50

    LYNCHThank you.

  • 12:53:51

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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