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AARP Collaboration with REALTORS® will Empower Consumers to Understand and Seek out Livable Communities

*Update 5/13/21: This integration is now live! See details on how REALTORS® can access the Livability Index through Realtors Property Resource® (RPR) to help their clients learn more about the livability of neighborhoods.*

For too long we have built homes and communities without properly considering a key fact: The U.S. population is aging. By 2035, people over 65 will outnumber those 18 and under for the first time, and our neighborhoods are not prepared.

This has created a disconnect between most older adults’ well-documented desire to remain in their homes, and their ability to access the needed services and supports to make that a reality.

A recently announced collaboration between AARP and the National Association of REALTORS® promises to help address that disconnect. Unveiled a few weeks ago by AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins and REALTORS® CEO Bob Goldberg, the two organizations agreed to integrate AARP’s Livability Index: Great Neighborhoods for All Ages tool into the Realtors Property Resource® website and mobile app, setting the stage to ensure more people consider aging when searching for a place to live.

The announcement comes as we have new insight into our location decisions. Last month we published research, in partnership with the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, that found most older adults do not reside in livable communities and older adults’ access to livable communities is not evenly distributed. Further, when older adults do move, only 11 percent move to more livable neighborhoods. Addressing information gaps through tools like the Index can help people understand their needs—now and going forward—and then find the right communities for themselves as they age.

Including Livability for Improved Housing

We developed the AARP Livability Index as an online, interactive tool that scores neighborhoods across the United States in seven data-driven categories including housing, transportation, health, environment, engagement, opportunity, and neighborhood. We are eager for REALTORS®, policymakers and the private sector to use the Index as they seek to improve housing options in communities throughout the country.

The announcement, made during the 2020 REALTORS® Conference and Expo, is the first-ever licensing agreement of the Livability Index.  The agreement is significant, as it sets the stage for a better-informed public that understands that housing and communities are critical to individual well-being and must serve all people throughout their lifetime, regardless of age, income, physical ability, or race/ethnicity. As Jenkins said, “it’s a tool that will empower people to choose how and where they will live as they age.”

The importance of this new AARP-NAR relationship cannot be stressed enough when it comes to meeting older adults’ overwhelming desire to stay in places of their choice as they age, with the support and services that allow them to remain part of their chosen community. With REALTOR® knowledge of communities now bolstered by the Livability Index, we will be able to inform and educate a broader public about the elements that create a livable neighborhood.

Selecting Homes and Locations for Your Future 

We want to help people, and older adults in particular, make better-informed housing decisions. But we also want to address the reality that people are often unaware of what they may need in the future and that most communities weren’t built to support people as they age.

The findings in our recently published research paper with the Joint Center, “Which Older Adults Have Access to America’s Most Livable Neighborhoods? An Analysis of AARP’s Livability Index,” illustrate why the NAR collaboration is vital to creating livable and age-friendly neighborhoods where people of all ages can maintain independence and a high quality of life.

Our analysis revealed a nuanced picture filled with complexities that speak to the work we need to do to assist people of all economic, racial, ethnic, and physical ability groups in accessing the features that will allow them to remain vital members of their communities as they age.

We discovered that older renters and Hispanic and Black older adults are overrepresented in neighborhoods with high scores for affordable and accessible housing, access to amenities, and safe and convenient transportation. Homeowners and white older adults, however, are overrepresented in places with high scores for opportunity and inclusion, civic and social engagement, and environment, which includes access to clean air and water.

The highest scores for health, which include low rates of obesity and smoking, access to high quality health care, and other factors, are less common in places with high proportions of renters and lower-income homeowners. Those findings make it clear that each population group is making tradeoffs.

A Call to Action

The mismatch between what people have in their communities and what they might need is striking. By paying attention to these complexities, and through collaborative efforts of community stakeholders, we can begin to address these discrepancies.

Our work with NAR is part of AARP’s ongoing efforts to encourage everyone to consider what makes a community livable. We all have roles to play in improving our housing options, including policymakers and the private sector. Both should aim to expand housing options for people of all ages.

Individuals also have a key role in shaping communities. By envisioning their own future needs when selecting where they live, consumers can demand action from policymakers and the private sector to work towards more livable communities.

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