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PSU Study Looks At 'Age-Friendliness' Of Cities

Portland State University released a study with the World Health Organization Monday, that guages how ‘age-friendly’ cities are.

Researchers looked into everything from the number of community centers in a town, to how expensive the local real estate is.

Stumptown was the only U.S. city to participate in the program, and as Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, it has a little work to do if it wants to be more welcoming to senior citizens.

The study looked at 33 cities in 22 countries. The aim was to find what makes some cities more desirable to retirees. So researchers looked at public transport, the number of open spaces, and an older person’s ability to engage with society as a whole.

Cities weren’t ranked, but PSU doctoral student Alan DeLaTorre, says Portland has a few problems.

Alan DeLaTorre: “Some of the issues that were barriers to age friendliness were: job opportunities, there were feelings that older adults and their children had problems in getting jobs. We also saw some problems with pedestrian infrastructure, certain areas like the Southwest Hills, didn’t have continuous sidewalk. Transportation systems, even though they were thought to be strong, there were some problems with signage for driving. Some disrespect that some older adults felt they received with regards to seating on transit. Crime was perceived to be problematic in certain areas.  One of the interesting things that we heard, when designing transit stops was to not place walls in a way that would protect criminals or crime from happening.”

They were also worried about  housing costs in Portland. Rent is high and developers are building more homes with multiple levels – stairs can be a problem when you get older.

But seniors weren’t down on Portland. They had plenty of nice things to say.

Margaret Neal is the director of the Institute on Aging at PSU.

Margaret Neal: “People like all the parks, the green space, the environment here. There are ways in which it can be improved, but in general they like it. They also like the degree to which older adults have opportunities for civic engement and social participation. So to be part of the community. They like the fact that we have organizations like ‘Elders in Action’ where older adults are consulted with respect to decisions and issues that matter in their daily lives.”

This is the World Health Organization's first look at age-friendly cities. It expects to follow up with more in-depth studies in years to come.

As for the Portland area, the percentage older people is expected to more than double over the next 30 years.

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