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BUILDING A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR SENIOR LIVING, Part 1: Abstract & Outline

The following is the first of six installments that originally comprised an article originally published in Educational Gerontology (vol.37: pages 466–48) in 2011.

The installments, over the next two weeks will be:

1. Abstract or Overview

2. Becoming a More Sustainable Community by Becoming More Senior Friendly

3. Five Global Trends Calling for Change

4. What the Global Trends Help Us to Realize

5. Developing a Community-wide Strategy

6. Practical Activities in Action

 The article’s bibliography will be included along with the final installment. Questions and comments are welcome.

 Abstract: The aging of society is an inescapable trend that some neighborhoods, municipalities, and counties are admitting needs their attention. As the extent of the changes required to become senior friendly, let alone sustainable, are being realized, many communities are experiencing pushback from voters, old-guard city and county staff, and even elected officials. While initially appearing counter-intuitive, if we plan for the aging of society along with four other first-time-ever, equally inescapable trends—peak oil, water scarcity, obesity, and climate change—we come to realize the critical role of the built environment as a common denominator in preparing for a future very different than most of us have anticipated. As such, changes to the built environment that move a community closer to realizing sustainable senior living also contribute to lower energy needs and costs, a smaller carbon footprint, water savings, and an overall healthier population. By focusing on the built environment as the key to sustainable senior living communities, we are able to build more inclusive collaborative work teams, reach out to two underutilized resources in retirees and college and university students, and leverage the planned-for changes in ways that help finance future modifications. Clarified below, these ideas, strategies, and actions are, in the end, described as part of a six-year, ongoing, service learning partnership that, although not documented, are believed by local residents and business leaders, Spokane, Washington’s previous Mayor, and me, to have accelerated change in the community.