"Are you looking on the east side, or the west side?"
This was the question I was asked most often when people found out I was moving to Cleveland. The question was often followed by a recommendation or a suggestion of why one area, one side of town or one neighborhood was best: the commute, the taxes, the shopping or other amenities. Cleveland residents take great pride in their city and its neighborhoods. There is a lot to like. Whether one is looking for a view of the water, an urban living experience, excellent suburbs or access to the highway, northeast Ohio offers a variety of options.
Moving to Cleveland was a big step. We were long-term residents in Indiana. Coming to Benjamin Rose was a wonderful career opportunity. But moving, even for a dream job, is still a move. Change can be stressful — new job, new city, new home. So, we explored our new community and searched for the perfect place for us.
So, what makes for the "perfect place?"; The answer is different for everyone. A large kitchen? Room to entertain? Outdoor space? The kids are grown, but is there space for them come visit? We didn't need a yard, but we did want to walk our dog. We thought about a condo. What is the commute like? How far is the nearest grocery store? Pharmacy? Where is the Costco? We wanted a walkable neighborhood. I imagined life without a lawnmower or an extension ladder. Buffy (my wife) wanted to be near the lake… And so, we explored (along with our long-suffering real estate agent) until we found the right spot. Our perfect place. And we are enjoying the opportunities to explore our new home and meet our new neighbors.
Whether we rent or buy, a home is one of the biggest purchases we make. It is more than shelter, more than an investment. It is... home. Part of finding a home was about finding our place. Our experience moving to Cleveland reminded me of the importance of home and community, and the challenges faced by many older adults who want to "age in place".
In a survey conducted by AARP, 87 percent of adults age 65 and older stated they wanted to remain in their own homes and communities as they grow older. And yet, half of those same people worry that they won't be able to do so. Will I be able to climb the stairs? Or maintain the yard? Will I be able to afford it? What are the steps I can take today to help increase the likelihood that I will be able to remain at home?
A second factor in aging in place is the availability of community supports. What are the amenities and services in the community that help promote independence and livability? Is public transportation available? Is it a place where I can walk safely? Is there a grocery store nearby? Are stores and other services "visitable", meaning I can enter the building (or find a restroom) without climbing stairs? And, if I need personal assistance, how do I access those programs? Cleveland was among the first cities in the country to join the Age Friendly Communities initiative to promote policy and practices that help older adults to age in place.
One important factor for me was the length of my commute to work. My wife wanted to find a place where we could walk to things. "I’d like to park the car on Friday evening," she said, "and not have to get back in it until Monday morning." Convenience and connections help create livability. The Brookings Institute describes these "third places" as "locations where we exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships." Churches, parks, rec centers and other locations where people gather help build connections and create a sense of community.
Safe, affordable and accessible housing. Access to shopping and community amenities. A vibrant social life. Access to health promotion and health care. Visitable, walkable places. All of these are factors that help promote aging in place and allow livable communities. What I notice about this list is that these amenities are not just important for older adults. They are also important to young adults, families and working professionals. These are reasons that people choose to live where they live. And, just as importantly, the reasons that they choose to stay.
LEARN MORE ABOUT:
Aging in place: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-old-home
Livable communities: https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/about/info-2014/what-is-a-livable-community.html
Third places: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2016/09/14/third-places-as-community-builders/