The Age-friendly City program addresses demographic trends – including the aging and diversification of our populations – by planning our neighborhood and town centers with a focus on equitable approaches to community engagement and long range planning. The program addresses aging across the life course by planning Portland’s future built environments to be more inclusive of the evolving needs of the community while centering its efforts on racial and disability equity. By co-designing our future urban form with older adults, people with disabilities, families, caregivers and service providers, the program aims to support Portland’s community health and livability.
Portland’s age-friendly efforts are among the longest running in the United States and the world. Beginning as a research project in 2006-07, coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and carried out locally by Portland State University, the project has grown into a City of Portland program guided by the Action Plan for an Age-Friendly Portland (adopted by City Council in 2013) as well as polices from the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
In 2019, Portland City Council created the city’s first age-friendly position in the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The program coordinates an Age-friendly Executive Committee, collaborates with Age-friendly Multnomah Co. efforts, and is part of the global and national networks of age-friendly cities and communities, which is coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) globally and AARP nationally.
Based on the frameworks developed by the WHO and AARP, age-friendly domains can be organized into three environments:
- Physical: Housing, transportation, outdoor spaces and buildings.
- Social: Respect and inclusion, social participation, civic participation and volunteering, and employment and the economy.
- Service: Health care, communication and information, and community services.
In November 2021, BPS formed a working group with support from the Ronald W. Naito MD Foundation and Community Vision, a Portland-based nonprofit. This group explored strategies for creating age-friendly and disability-inclusive urban neighborhoods. Members of the group focused on advancing neighborhood “centers” by building on centers polices in Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan and the Action Plan for an Age-friendly Portland. The City’s Urban Design Framework describes centers as:
"Compact and growing mixed use urban areas of varying size that provide access to jobs, commercial services, transit connections and housing options."
Within this framework, these neighborhood urban centers are envisioned as “complete neighborhoods,” or places where “people have safe and convenient access to the places, goods, and services needed in daily life, [which] include housing options, employment options, grocery stores and other commercial services, quality public schools, parks, trails, natural areas and recreational facilities, affordable active transportation options, and civic amenities.”
Other elements specific to age- and disability-inclusive communities include accessible housing, safe mobility options, accessible and inclusive public spaces, access to healthcare and wellness services, communication and information infrastructure (e.g., wayfinding), and convenient access to critical services such as daycare (childcare and adult daycare), healthy food options, and cultural/community centers.
Age- and disability-inclusive neighborhood centers are designed to support human health and longevity across the life course by creating urban areas that are good for growing up and growing old. Racial and disability equity is embedded in this work, recognizing that people accumulate advantages and disadvantages throughout their lives that effect their long-term health and well-being; past harms and traumas are recognized in planning and co-design processes with and for the community.
Age- and disability-inclusive neighborhood centers provide options for people of all ages and (dis)abilities to live, work, and play within their neighborhood, and to age in their community, if they choose.
The following objectives build on 2035 Comprehensive Plan policies:
- Advance racial and disability equity by engaging the community and co-creating solutions and directions with the community, local stakeholders, and partners who can offer innovative ideas and collaborations.
- Increase the availability of age-friendly housing and services in Portland’s neighborhood centers to provide affordable and accessible housing, safe and inclusive mobility options, access to appropriate community and health services (e.g., daycare centers, clinics, libraries), integration of innovative technologies and services, and improved social connections and economic opportunities.
- Develop zoning and planning tools and policies that can be applied throughout the City of Portland that, when implemented, create urban centers that are great places to grow up and grow old.
Next steps and timeline
- Fall 2022: Finalize draft priorities from ADIN working group.
- Winter 2022-2023: Ground-truth priorities with internal stakeholders and key external stakeholders.
- Spring 2023: Finalize ADIN action plan.
- Summer/Fall 2023: Gather input from bureau partners and City leadership and prepare for implementation.