Most Americans say they want to age in place in their own communities, but their health and ability to remain independent is shaped in part by their neighborhoods. Research finds that the social, economic, demographic, and physical characteristics of communities may influence older residents’ health and well-being.
Neighborhood characteristics affect people of all ages, but older adults—classified here as adults over age 50—may be affected more than other groups. Older people typically experience higher levels of exposure to neighborhood conditions, often having spent decades in their communities. They have more physical and mental health vulnerabilities compared with younger adults, and are more likely to rely on community resources as a source of social support. As older adults become less mobile, their effective neighborhoods may shrink over time to include only the immediate areas near their homes (Glass and Balfour 2003).