Age-Friendly Design Resources

Resources and research

For funding resources, see the Age-Friendly Funding Sources page.

Age-friendly street design is important for creating enjoyable experiences getting around and for vibrancy in our public realm. Research shows that including age-friendly elements on streets and in public spaces creates a right-of-way with more people of all ages enjoying public spaces. A majority of older adults live in urban environments which are unlikely to have been designed with their needs and capabilities in mind. On the other end of the spectrum, urban environments are rarely designed with the needs of children and youth at the forefront. In contrast, in an age-friendly community, the physical and social infrastructure, policies, and services are designed to support and enable active, independent living for older and younger people, so they can safely enjoy and participate in social life. Age-friendly streets can support active and healthy lifestyles which can be an important determinant for well-being later in life. Older adults are more vulnerable and likely to suffer more serious injuries than relatively younger people. Similarly, age-friendly streets designed with the needs of children in mind, can encourage families to build social networks, adopt active lifestyles, and engage with the natural environment.

Seattle and King County's aging population

  • The number of older persons (60+) world wide will double from the current 600 million to 1.2 billion by 2025, and again, to 2 billion by 2050. These projections come from the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, an affiliate of the World Health Organization's Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program.
  • In Seattle, around 12/1% of the population is 65 or older. (Age-Friendly Seattle facts)
  • The average life expectancy in King County is 81.6 years, with averages differing by gender, race, and socioeconomic level. (Age-Friendly Seattle facts)
  • In King County, 22% (average from 2011-2015) of adults in King County were limited in any way in any activity because of physical, mental, or emotional problems. (King County Community Health Indicators)
  • In King County, 23% (average from 2011-2015) of adults in King County reported having a disability (physical, mental, or emotional). Populations with a disability would also benefit from many of the design suggestions in this toolkit. (King County Community Health Indicators)

How to make sure your Age-Friendly design thrives:

Consider a few things when assessing if you can integrate Age-Friendly design within your neighborhood:

  1. Do pedestrians already use this street? More people, means more opportunities for the design element to be used and loved.
  2. Are there high vehicle volumes along the street? If there are high vehicle volumes, especially high volumes of fast moving vehicles, then the street may not feel as comfortable to some elements (like play) but may be perfect for other elements (like pedestrian lighting, or transit amenities if it is along a transit route).
  3. Are there underutlized spaces or walls? Spaces that are out of the pedestrian clear zone might be opportunities for public seating, or other age-friendly interactive elements. Blank walls could be an opportunity to partner with the community and property owner to add some art and color to create a welcoming and interesting area.
  4. What are the land uses that are nearby? Think about what could support the adjacent land uses. For example, parklets next to food walk up windows or traffic calming near schools.
  5. Are there opportunities to partner with community members or sponsors? Are there community groups, land owners, non-profits, or people who would like to help steward an age-friendly neighborhood? Working with partners can help to make sure projects succeed and can sometimes help with maintenance.
  6. How big is your design element? Make sure that no matter what element you would like to add, that there is enough room in the right-of-way, and it isn't conflicting with other street or sidewalk functions.
  7. Are there age-friendly elements that would complement each other? If you are installing one age-friendly element, like an interactive element for kids, could you also install a bench for adults can watch or rest? Many of these age-friendly tools can help support each other.
  8. Do you have a plan for maintenance? Make sure you know who owns and maintains the infrastructure. Partnerships come in handy, as does a maintenance budget or plan.

Resources