You’ve already heard that Millennials, probable future buyers of your home, favor walkable neighborhoods where they can reach transit, restaurants, and shopping without a car.
But there’s another reason to pick a walkable community when you’re downsizing or choosing a new neighborhood. Walkable communities can have a positive effect on your health, specifically your blood pressure.
That’s according to preliminary findings of a study (see: http://www.medicaldaily.com/people-who-live-within-walking-distance-everything-may-be-less-likely-develop-high-360770 and http://newsroom.heart.org/file?fid=563f40d75e8eef6250536c2f) by Dr. Maria Chiu, a scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The research suggests that people living in walkable neighborhoods had a 54 percent lower risk of high blood pressure when compared to those who moved to less walkable areas.
Researchers used Walk Score (www.walkscore.com )a site that allows you to type in an address to see just how walkable it is, and data from the Canadian Community Health Survey to see what happened to participants’ blood pressure as they moved from highly walkable neighborhoods to less walkable areas.
The theory is that those living in pedestrian-friendly areas incorporated physical activity into their routines as they went about taking care of the daily tasks of life.
So measuring the pedestrian friendliness of a neighborhood is worth considering when you’re vetting properties.
Senior housing challenges
Finding a walkable community is a great start for aging well. But more than walkability creates a good neighborhood for aging in place.
It also entails a host of other factors, including affordability and access to transit and home services.
A recent report, Seniors and Housing: The Challenge Ahead (https://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/FCM/Seniors_and_Housing_Report_EN.pdf), by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, outlines how well Canada is prepared for an aging population and what it needs to do to put in place the infrastructure that will allow the tsunami of seniors to live well.
There are challenges ahead and work to be done. Here are some study highlights.
Seniors are expected to account for almost one in four Canadians by 2036, with the most rapid population jumps expected among those 85 and older.
Close to 700,000 senior-led households face housing affordability challenges. One in four such households spend 30 percent or more on housing. And even though the majority of seniors would like to age in their own communities, there has been a steep decline in affordable housing options.
The federal government’s annual contribution of $1.6 billion for social housing is scheduled to expire over the next 20 years. And by 2040, just when the senior population is expected to double, federal support for senior social housing will disappear.
When people can no longer drive, their ability to age in place diminishes. How will seniors get to places to serve their basic needs – the grocery store and doctors’ offices – and the activities for social and psychological well-being without access to transportation?
Rethinking and retooling the design of cities and developing better transit options for aging Canadians remains a challenge.
Solving some of the problems require government intervention at both the local and federal levels, according to the research.
Among the report’s suggestions are finding ways for local government to deliver accessible transit and lower rental housing for seniors. And the federal government can reinvest in social housing and deliver incentives to build affordable housing and support programs to help seniors retrofit their homes for better aging in place.
The winter chill has already begun settling in. If you’re not a snowbird, the months ahead can be bleak and daunting.
Norwegians have a way to make winter less oppressive. They call it koselig, and it entails generating warmth, light, coziness, and conviviality.
The concept seems a bit vague, but several people have written about the more concrete aspects of it.
Some of the strategies may be worth a try this year.
So pull out your blankets, build a fire, light some candles, and throw a dinner party.
Celebrate the season.
And good luck.