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Livability: Does Your 'Hood Meet Your Needs?

PHOTO: Seattle gets high marks in new AARP rankings for livability. Anyone can check out the rankings for their town or city online, on AARP's Livability Index. Photo credit: kakisky/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Seattle gets high marks in new AARP rankings for livability. Anyone can check out the rankings for their town or city online, on AARP's Livability Index. Photo credit: kakisky/morguefile.com.
April 20, 2015

SEATTLE - What makes a community livable might change depending on the age of the person giving the opinion. At this week's American Planning Association meeting in Seattle, AARP unveils an online "Livability Index" that anyone can use to determine how well any community is meeting specific needs.

AARP Chief Public Policy Officer Debra Whitman says livability is important to everyone, but especially to people as they age, since most say they want to remain at home, and community leaders need to plan for that.

"We hope they use it as a tool to think about their communities differently, and how to make them better over time," she says. "We wanted to make sure that this tool is used not only to say what we're doing right, but also even if we're doing it right how can we do it better?"

She says the index was created using more than 50 sources of data, including a survey of 4,500 people over age 50. There are 60 factors in categories from environment and health to community engagement and transportation.

In the latest AARP Bulletin, Seattle makes quite a few of the "top 10" livability lists. It's in the top three for people staying healthy and ranks 10th for being an easy city to get around, and for its arts and entertainment scene.

Whitman notes that overall, Seattle ranks as one of the "Most Livable Large Cities" in the nation, despite its high housing prices.

"All of those things sort of weigh against the cost of living in a place," she explains. "So, it's not just a pure cost measure. It's also, 'How good is your community to be in, on an everyday basis?'"

Downtown Seattle is ranked one of the nation's top ten "Most Livable Neighborhoods." Kirkland also made the list of "Most Livable Small Cities," partly for its safe streets for walkers, cyclists and motorists.

Whitman points out the Livability Index works for small towns, too. She looked up her hometown of Electric City – in central Washington's Grant County – with a population of less than 1,000.

"It has a very clean environment," she says. "Congestion is pretty good – it has no traffic lights! It scored about average on livability. It was really interesting to be able to use this measure on big cities like Seattle, as well as tiny little towns like Electric City, where I came from."

The Livability Index is on the AARP website.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA