Misconception #4: Aging in Place is Only Practical in the Suburbs

According to a survey completed by HomeAdviser, sixty-five percent of homeowners who are over the age of 55 say the physical layout of their home will be appropriate as they age. However, approximately two thirds of those living in rural or suburban homes are more apt to believe this than those who live in urban homes (50 percent). Similarly, urban homeowners are more likely than rural and suburban homeowners to have completed or considered an aging-in-place renovation. Only 21 percent of rural or suburban homeowners have previously completed an aging-in-place renovation and 34 percent of them have never contemplated one, compared to the 31 percent and 15 percent, respectively, among homeowners in urban areas. Collectively, these data suggest a common belief that it’s easier to age in place in rural and suburban homes than in urban homes.

Reality: Cities Have Unique Aging-in-Place Advantages

It may be easier to modify rural and suburban homes for aging-in-place purposes, but this does not automatically make them more appropriate for older adults. In fact, the AARP Public Policy Institute released a new, first-of-its-kind tool stressing the importance of the social aspects of aging in place in 2015. The tool is called the AARP Livability Index. This index makes it possible for people of any age to figure out—at the neighborhood level—how well their community is set up to meet their future and current needs based on a wide variety of metrics, including housing, but also health, environment and transportation, amid others. Thanks to their increased social opportunities, superior neighborhood walkability and better public transit the livability score of urban communities is often higher than those of rural and suburban societies.

“In 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities and by 2030 approximately three out of every five people will live in urban areas” (McIlwain 2011). The percentage of the world’s population over the age of sixty is more than eleven percent today and by 2020 will surpass twenty percent. Due to these statistics, the World Health Organization made the “Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities” which assesses eight characteristics of urban life that make cities more age-friendly. The eight components are:

  • Transportation
  • Respect and social inclusion;
  • Social involvement;
  • Housing
  • Outdoor spaces and buildings;
  • Communication and information;
  • Civic involvement and employment;
  • Community support and health services.

For each of these topics, a set of parameters was produced and issued in “Global Age Friendly Cities: A Guide” in addition to a checklist. Entries on the list range from the specific, such as having sufficient seating in outdoor parks, to the very general, such as having adequate inexpensive housing in safe locations close to the rest of the community and to service . Membership in the network expresses a pledge by the city to apply these guidelines and work to increase its age-friendliness. While it may be commonly believed that urban homes are less suited to aging-in-place, this is certainly not the case.


“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor.” Home Improvement Tips & Advice from HomeAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Inc., 30 Aug. 2017, www.homeadvisor.com/r/2016-aging-in-place-report/.

McIlwain, John. “Suburbs, Cities, and Aging in Place.” Urban Land Magazine, Urban Land Institute, 17 Aug. 2011, urbanland.uli.org/economy-markets-trends/suburbs-cities-and-aging-in-place/.