The Public Policy Institute at AARP offers an interactive online tool to measure how livable your neighborhood is. Affordable housing? Accessible public transportation? Jobs? Clean air?
The Livability Index’s stated goal is not only to help you gauge your community’s livability, but also to give you a way to compare communities based – and to do so based on your priorities. If affordable housing ranks way higher for you than clean air, you can simply use a set of sliders to customize the score.
What exactly does AARP mean by “livable”? According to this blog post, the organization held focus groups and fielded a survey to look at the needs and desires of older residents. “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 features, and services that (among other things) allow people to age in place.”
When it comes to housing, for example, the index looks at how much of a neighborhood’s stock is multi-family rather than single-family detached homes. “Older adults whose children have moved out or whose spouses have passed away, single-parent families, childless couples, or people who choose to share housing with roommates may all prefer multi-family housing.” Engagement looks at, among many other factors, the availability of affordable and fast Internet and how often people interact with friends and neighbors, because, as AARP says, “Studies show that Americans who socialize regularly live longer.” (see more about the many criteria that contribute the scores here.)
Here’s a quick look at how the Index will appear on your screen (don’t try to click our example, below):
We tried the tool, comparing downtown Manhattan with a top retirement spot, Delray Beach, Florida.
The results, based the Livability Index’s average of scores across its various measures:
Delray Beach, 45. This community’s highest score, 58, was for health (prevention, access and quality); it’s lowest, 30, was for housing (affordability and access) and 31 for opportunity (inclusion and possibilities – including jobs and age diversity).
Lower Manhattan, 71. This community’s lowest score, 23, was for opportunity. Its highest, 98, was for safe and convenient transportation options. NYC also scored high on neighborhood (access to life, work and play) and engagement (civic and social involvement).
You can customize the score using a slider on the side; you can change the priorities.
Looking to the future, the Liveability Index also features a number of communities, by state or region, that have made a commitment to become more livable – a resource that encourages younger people to look ahead(wishful on AARP’s part, perhaps).
Bottom line: This is an exceptionally well designed tool that’s a lot of fun to play with. Go play!