New research offers insight to help MN seniors age in place

New research from the University of Minnesota reveals how Minnesota builders can help local seniors age in place.

Jessica Finlay, an environmental gerontologist and doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, has focused her studies on how Minnesota seniors interact with their homes and neighborhoods as they age. Over the last year and a half, she interviewed 125 seniors living independently in downtown and north Minneapolis and Eden Prairie (average age 71).

Finlay found that seniors love the Minneapolis skyway system for its familiar shopping environment and weather-protected, accessible walkways. In North Minneapolis, close-knit neighborhoods greatly benefit seniors.

On the other hand, Finlay discovered that seniors joke with one another about being killed crossing busy streets. Even if crosswalks are available, they do not always provide enough time for slower-moving seniors to cross the street. Construction zones and icy sidewalks are other hazards for the elderly, causing many seniors not to venture out.

What stood out most to Finlay in her research was how much simple things like benches and shade trees mean to seniors. Finlay advises policymakers and architects to keep these things in mind when long-term city planning. According to Finlay, “we design Peter Pan neighborhoods, imagining that we never grow old.”

You can view the Star Tribune article here.

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