Imagine a grandparent without a car using a mobility device, who needs to navigate school drop-off, a doctor’s appointment, socializing with friends or family, then returning for after-school pick-up and the final trip home. Those trips are made easier through good land use planning and policies that include the needs and desires of older adults and people with disabilities.
Portland’s age-friendly efforts are among the longest running in the United States ― and the world. Beginning as a research project at Portland State University (PSU) in 2006-07, staff and students developed Portland’s age-friendly framework and action plans under guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and AARP. The project eventually evolved into a City of Portland program housed within the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Over time an Action Plan for an Age-Friendly Portland was adopted by City Council in 2013, along with age-friendly policies in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan and the Transportation System Plan.
So what makes Portland an age-friendly city?
It’s a lot about how people move about. Features like curb cuts, sidewalks, benches and cycling infrastructure support safe and active transportation for everyone, regardless of their age or disability. Land use patterns focus growth and services in centers and corridors to foster complete and accessible communities. Overall, Portland’s planning and policies are shaping our city to be friendlier to and more inclusive of older adults and people with disabilities.
Portland’s efforts are featured in Health and Human Services report
On June 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report: Implementation Strategies for Older Adults, which highlights strategies to increase the physical activity that older adults need. HHS invited Portland to collaborate on this report through its long-standing partnership with the AARP Livable Communities program and BPS’s Age-friendly Cities program manager. Staff from the Portland Bureau of Transportation also shared how the city has created more walkable, bikeable, and “rollable” neighborhoods.
As detailed in the report, infrastructure and programs in Portland facilitate age-friendliness by increasing accessibility as well as residents’ ability to be active and mobile. The Portland-focused section of the report also highlights age-friendly approaches, such as providing guidance to help developers that are creating age-friendly housing and ensuring parks and green spaces meet the needs of underserved communities.
A key takeaway: Seeking community input is critical, and Portland officials should continue to co-create built environments with the public to turn visions into reality and make Portland an even more age-friendly city.
BPS continues to advance age-friendly land use policies and is exploring new opportunities related to climate, housing production, and partnerships within other bureaus and Multnomah County.