Urban Planning + Creating Healthy Communities

Author: Cheryl Fama, Peninsula Health Care District CEO

The vision of the Peninsula Health Care District is that all residents of the District enjoy their optimal health through education, prevention, and access to needed health care services. To carry out our vision, PHCD is launching a monthly blog that will highlight health care trends, and the implications these trends may have on the health and wellness of District residents. Our inaugural blog post focuses on healthy aging, a particularly timely topic for District residents, as San Mateo County is expected to see a 72 percent increase in the number of older adults (65+) by the year 2030, according to a study conducted by the Lewin Group. As people continue to live longer, healthier lives, our communities must find ways to support this growing population – both for the senior demographic and our society as a whole – starting with the basic concept of how our communities are structured and new ones are created, which can evolve to promote health and wellness for all ages.

Urban planning plays an important role in creating healthy communities for all ages. The health of older adults may be more influenced by their neighborhoods as a result of decreased mobility.[1] Without the ability to easily get from Point A to Point B, seniors may experience isolation, reduction in social support, increased fragility, and a decline in overall physical and mental health.

Planning communities that are convenient and safe for older adults actually benefits all residents. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “making cities more age-friendly promotes the well-being and contributions of older residents and keeps neighborhoods diverse and age-friendly.” Seniors can maintain an active, healthy lifestyle by having access to convenient transportation options; green spaces and other outdoor gathering spaces; housing that is safe and accessible to local amenities, such as doctor’s offices and grocery stores; and social opportunities at coffee shops, local senior centers, and so on. The bonus is that these amenities are not just beneficial for seniors, but for everyone. People of all ages who regularly participate in physical activity and social interaction are more likely to enjoy a better quality of life.

Livable communities for all ages allow people to maintain control of their own wellbeing and can help reduce health disparities.[2] Communities across the country are examining the concept of Healthy Aging, which is defined by the CDC Prevention Research Center, Health Aging Research Network as “the development and maintenance of optimal physical, mental, and social well-being and function in older adults. It is most easily achieved when physical environments and communities are designed and support the adoption and maintenance of attitudes and behaviors known to promote health and well-being, and by the effective use of health services and community programs to prevent or minimize the impact of acute and chronic disease on function.”

Research findings point to the need for communities to rethink the way environments are designed, to ensure that our communities age in a way that is healthy and beneficial for all residents across the lifespan. Peninsula Health Care District (PHCD) is pleased to introduce the Peninsula Wellness Community (PWC), a gathering place for living well. Currently in the planning phase, it is envisioned that PWC will have a vibrant mix of uses, including independent senior housing, assisted-living, hospice care, therapy clinics, fitness rooms, professional and research offices and laboratories, preschool and daycare facilities, administrative support offices, small conference rooms and meeting facilities, a café, and neighborhood-serving retail. The long-range master plan outlines a gathering place that will engage all ages and levels of wellness with services and activities, thereby supporting older adults as they age in a way that is personally meaningful and fulfilling, and also has positive benefits for the community as a whole. We invite you to learn more about PWC by visiting our website, and checking back for future blog posts. If you have any questions about PHCD or PWC, please contact us by calling (650) 697-6900 or info@peninsulahealthcaredistrict.org.

Bibliography

[1] Michael, ScD, MS, Y. L., Yen, PhD, MPH, I. H., & Perdue, MPH, L. (2009). Neighborhood Environment in Studies of Health of Older Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 455-463.

[2] Prevention, C. f. (2015, September 11). Your Health-Your Environment Blog. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://blogs.cdc.gov/yourhealthyourenvironment/2015/09/11/youre-as-young-as-you-feel-2

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