In this column, I want to focus on how the built environment affects health and, specifically, the health and wellbeing of older Americans. The current growth of the population ages 65 and older
is one of the most significant demographic trends in U.S. history. Although the aging population has received academic and media attention for decades, most cities are not delivering the housing, amenities and services likely required by older citizens.
We need to build communities that improve seniors’ ability to live comfortably and conveniently in their homes and neighborhoods, both to reduce health care costs and to improve their safety and quality of life. These types of communities will provide benefits to people of all ages, points out Richard Jackson, M.D., a pediatrician and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health. Jackson will be a featured speaker at a special FBCI symposium and fundraiser early in 2017 in San Francisco.
During an April 8, 2015, interview on NPR station WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., Jackson recalled driving down a busy seven-lane highway in Atlanta one hot day in 1995 and passing an elderly woman who was bent over with osteoporosis as she struggled to walk along the road. He remarked that, if she had succumbed to the heat or been hit by a passing vehicle, those factors would have been blamed for her fate, not the absence of a sidewalk or of trees to shade her from the sun.
“Before World War II, we knew how to build great neighborhoods,” he said, and praised Charlotte’s commitment to installing light rail transportation that has helped spawn live/work/play communities in that city and provided many opportunities for people of all ages to engage in “incidental exercise.”
Jackson will be joined by several other well-known health experts to discuss the many steps we can take to create healthy urban environments at our FBCI symposium and fundraiser early in 2017 in San Francisco. So, keep an eye out for more details on this special event. We hope you will be able to join us.
Lisa Wise, Chairperson