America’s population is aging. Nearly a quarter of the population, 76 million people, were born between 1946 and 1974, and an estimated 10,000 baby boomers reach traditional retirement age every single day.
It turns out that walking is an incredibly popular form of exercise for this age cohort. Walking is low impact, has zero entry cost, and comes with a host of health benefits, from slowing bone loss to reducing heart attack risk.
Transportation walking among seniors, as well as recreation or exercise, is also on the rise. A recent Dutch study concluded that an increase in “functional features,” including sidewalks and benches, combined with an increased number of destinations within a 400 to 800 meter buffer led to increased transportation walking among the study group aged 65 and older.
According to this 2012 paper by sociologist Peter Tuckel and Urban Planner William Milczarski, adults over 60 (empty nesters and those approaching retirement age), when given a choice (in a survey) between living in a typical “suburban sprawl” community or a “smart growth community characterized by mixed housing, ample sidewalks, and access to businesses and public transit,” opted for the smart-growth communities more than any other age group surveyed.
This segment of the population is also the wealthiest in the nation, has an enormous voting block, and frankly, has a lot of political capital. Advocacy seems to have focused largely on Millennials and their changing preferences. It’s time to get the Boomers on board, too. Together, these two groups make up 50% of the US population. Maybe we can bridge the generation gap with sidewalks and bike lanes.