Director, Livability Thought Leadership

Rodney Harrell, PhD, is Director of Livability Thought Leadership for AARP. His expertise includes neighborhood choice, housing affordability and accessibility, transit-oriented development, community redevelopment, sustainable community initiatives and other livable communities issues, and he leads the team that created the AARP Livability Index.

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Tragic Subway Death Highlights Need for Accessible Public Transportation

While navigating a Manhattan subway station with her 1-year-old daughter recently, 22 year-old Malaysia Goodson fell down a flight of stairs. Tragically, the fall was no everyday spill; she ended up dying. Goodson’s death has been met with public outrage over the circumstances that led to this tragedy. Why did this happen, and how might we prevent it in the future? Though Ms. Goodson’s cause of death is still unknown, the tragic incident has shined a light on the accessibility shortcomings facing New York City’s transit system. It also has shined a light on the need for accessible …

Visualizing the Housing Gap – the 2017 LTSS Scorecard

If you look at the 2017 Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard, you may notice that something is different in this third edition– housing and transportation indicators are included for the first time. Affordable and accessible housing and transportation options are key components of a livable community. Having options that people can access, regardless of their age, income, physical ability or other factors brings them closer to the community features and services they need to remain engaged in their …

‘We Should Talk’: Cross-Sector Conversations on Livable Communities Show Great Promise

The thousands of community planners who will come together this May at the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Planning Conference are increasingly aware of a demographic trend: Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over age 65 by 2030. Translation: Planners need to get together with aging network professionals and talk! Why? Many aging network professionals are in the business of designing plans with individuals to help them to thrive in their homes and communities for as long …

Redefining Home to Address the Future of Housing

In 1961, AARP’s founder, Ethel Andrus, presented President Dwight Eisenhower with a version of Freedom House. The scale model of a uniquely designed home contained what we would now call universal design features that allow people to stay in their homes as they age. Fifty-seven years later, we continue to implement that vision. This morning in Memphis, Walter Moody, a veteran who has faced a range of life challenges including housing instability, is going to walk into his newly renovated …

The Future of Housing

In less than two decades, over 70 million Americans will be age 65 and older and they will represent approximately 20 percent of the population. Will we have affordable and accessible housing options that meet their needs? We already face challenges. Currently, high housing costs force millions of low-income older adults to sacrifice spending on other necessities. The vast majority of the nation’s housing lacks basic accessibility features such as a no-step entrance, wide hallways and doorways and other features …

What Is a Livable Community, and How Do We Measure One?

Older adults have a diverse range of preferences, needs and constraints. Income, caregiver/disability status, race and ethnicity, location and other personal factors all impact residents’ perspective on the features of their community. To advance our understanding of community livability, we held focus groups and fielded a nationwide survey to look at what older adults want and need in their communities. Their responses addressed many components of AARP’s official definition of a “livable community.” These include safety, affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, community …