Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

The Age-Friendly City Can't Just Be for the Wealthy

University of Manchester researchers argue that the movement to make cities more livable for older residents must expand its work on inequality.
Samuel Cole, 85, of Los Angeles, poses in his motorhome. Cole moved into the vehicle when he wasn't able to afford a $100 rise in his rent.
Samuel Cole, 85, of Los Angeles, poses in his motorhome. Cole moved into the vehicle when he wasn't able to afford a $100 rise in his rent.Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

In Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, as NPR recently reported, a group of older people gathers weekly for political discussions over breakfast. The get-together, along with regular outings to museums, plays, and even to other cities, is offered through the neighborhood’s “village”—a nonprofit membership organization formed in 2002 designed to assist residents who wish to remain in their homes as they age. Members pay several hundred dollars a year in dues, which cover an office and small staff who organize the social events but also aid with necessities such as hiring home health care workers, helping with grocery shopping, and securing transport to medical appointments.

Today, more than 200 such virtual villages have been established in towns and cities across the U.S.—a sign of Americans’ ardent desire to “age in place,” or stay in their homes or communities as they grow older, and the advances made in giving them options to do so. But the village movement, as it’s known, also illustrates how such advances have largely benefited those on the wealthier and whiter end of the spectrum—Beacon Hill, for instance, is known for its affluence—despite recent efforts to provide similar services, sans dues, to lower-income neighborhoods.