Connecticut is undergoing a permanent and historic transformation in its demographics: it is aging and diversifying. Connecticut is the 7th oldest state in the nation with the 3rd longest-lived constituency. Between 2010 and 2040, Connecticut’s population of people age 65 and older is expected to grow by 57%. Moreover, the population of older adults will become more racially and ethnically diverse, both in Connecticut and nationally.
Supported by research and data, Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging
recognizes that residents overwhelmingly want to stay in their homes and communities as they grow older, retaining choice, independence and dignity. What this means for municipal leaders and their partners is that there’s a growing urgency to begin planning for changing Connecticut communities—one that will need:
- Affordable, accessible and diverse housing and transportation options and public spaces and buildings;
- Supportive community features and services; and
- Vibrancy and opportunities for community engagement
Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging is a nonpartisan public policy and research office of the Connecticut General Assembly. Following our statutory charge, we’re convening, engaging, inspiring and supporting local and regional efforts to shape more livable communities for residents across the lifespan, ones that cultivate an atmosphere that promotes diversity and inclusiveness, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, income or ability level.
So what does a livable community have to do with health? Everything, as it turns out. Livable communities promote the health and well-being of all Connecticut residents, including older adults. And it’s about more than just access to high-quality, affordable health care—it’s about creating the conditions in which people can be healthy. At least half of all health outcomes may be driven by community conditions.
There are many facets that make a community livable, such as: community engagement (including support and connectivity, civic engagement, and opportunities for both employment and recreation), health services, housing, planning and zoning, public spaces and buildings, social services and transportation.
The Commission’s model is evolving as we continue to learn and grow from the work of dynamic partners. But we’re sure that making communities healthier requires strategic collaborations across all the domains listed above.
Last week, in a speech to the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy outlined a vision for a best-in-class transportation system, and a few months earlier, the Connecticut Department of Transportation issued a policy statement, articulating that, as a condition of funding, Complete Streets must be considered.
Transportation is the vital link that connects residents across the lifespan with their communities and the elements of a vibrant and engaged life. The system’s components are wide-ranging. They include buses, trains and other modes of transit that operate along prescribed route and on a fixed schedule; para-transit, taxis and other vehicles with more individually tailored schedules and routes; and family “complete streets,” or streets that promote the safety and convenience of everyone using the road.
We encourage leaders across sectors to seize the opportunity wherever investments are being made. Broadening transportation options can result in healthier, more active lifestyles. Improved connectivity between residents can help overcome social isolation. And reduced household transportation costs, resulting from more transportation choices, can free up income for other purposes, including housing. Through collaborations and understanding notions of shared fate, together, we can shape more livable communities for everyone.
Featured image: iStock
Embedded image: Courtesy of the Connecticut Legislative Commission on Aging