If you are like many people nowadays, you are putting car ownership at the bottom of your to-do list. In fact, according to The New York Times, forty-six per cent of drivers aged 18 to 24 said they would choose Internet access over owning a car. Similarly, Statistics Canada said sales of new cars and trucks fell 6.7 per cent in February of last year. Whether you are trying to save money or are trying to save the environment, you can live comfortably without a car. When looking at apartments, it’s important to also look at the neighbourhood – what amenities are within walking distance?
This is, without a doubt, the most important walking-distance amenity. If not a big box grocery store, then you will at least want a convenience store that stocks staples such as milk, bread and eggs. If you need to run out on a Sunday morning because you don’t have enough milk for your cereal, you’re not going to want to have to take a bus or a taxi. However, you’re still going to want a large grocery store that is easily accessible somewhere in your new neighbourhood – even if that means you need to hop on the bus for a few minutes each way.
If you have children, moving can be difficult on them. Ensuring that they are within walking distance of their new school will help to give you peace of mind – and provide them with more opportunities to hang out with their new friends. Neighbourhoods that have schools in them tend to be more family-friendly, too. According to the Calgary Herald, schools, particularly elementary schools, have long been considered more than just learning institutions — they’re also where casino fundraisers and Christmas pageants take place, where community functions are held, and where children and their parents meet lifelong friends. In other words, they greatly enrich the neighbourhood they are located in.
Restaurants and Coffee Shops:
Having a place in your neighbourhood where you can unwind is a good idea. After all, who wants to take a 30 minute bus ride just to get a cup of coffee? While making coffee at home is always a great option, going for a walk to grab a quick cup is one of life’s little treats. Likewise, restaurants within walking distance of your apartment give you the option of doing yummy take-out on evenings when you’d rather relax with a good book or movie.
This could range from a Shoppers Drug Mart to a Home Hardware to a locally owned all-purpose shop. Having something nearby that carries a little bit of, well, everything will provide you with great convenience. Need some garbage bags, hand soap and diapers? It’s nice to have a store within minutes of your home that let you grab all of these things at once.
Let’s not forget the health benefits of living in an area with many walking-distance amenities. Additionally, living in a walkable neighbourhood is essential for the health and well-being of senior citizens. The website WalkScore takes a look at some of the benefits for seniors:
Quality of Life While Aging in Place:
Many retirees choose to age in place—to avoid moving and remain in their homes as long as possible. But since baby boomers were the generation that built suburbia, many will want to maintain a quality of life in unwalkable neighborhoods.
Older adults socialize more when living in walkable neighborhoods. According to the EPA, in an age-friendly walkable neighborhood or town, regular social interaction is possible, convenient and more frequent. The American Journal of Public Health published a study published a study that reveals older people living in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods have higher levels of social interaction compared with those residing in car-dependent burbs. Living in walkable neighborhoods means you are more likely to know your neighbors, participate in politics, engage socially and even trust people.
Transportation + Mobility to Leave the House:
Independence builds self-worth and being able to move around your neighborhood is freeing. “More than 20 percent of Americans age 65 or older do not drive. Of those, more than half — about 3.6 million people — stay home on any given day because they have no transportation, AARP says,” from a Washington Post article. Men outlive their “drive-ability” by 7 years, women by 10 years. Public transit becomes key for allowing seniors to remain independent. “A 2002 study by the National Institute on Aging found that about 600,000 people who are 70 or older stop driving every year and become dependent on other forms of transportation.”
A 2003 Brookings Institution study found that 79% of seniors age 65 and older live in car-dependent suburban and rural communities. But older adults increased their use of public transit by 40% between 2001 and 2009. About 15% of those over age 65 use public transit at least once time per month and more than half of them need specialized transportation, according to Placemaking article.
Control Your Own Schedule:
Being able to create your own schedule and meet people to socialize, shop when you want or get out of the house means living a life you want in retirement. The less one has to depend on others, the more freedom you can enjoy. The EPA’s Growing Smarter report highlights, “Having the choice to get to downtown shopping or cultural events on our own terms and schedule, rather than waiting for a friend or an on-call van can ensure independent living for much longer.”
Don’t think you have to worry about this? Imagine one day getting a call from your mom who says, “My doctor doesn’t think I should drive.” Fast forward a couple decades later and imagine your own eyesight gets worse, coordination and reflexes stall and you, too, need to find an alternate to a car. All of us will someday find we should no longer be driving and rely on public transportation. Let’s plan for it now for all ages of people.
Adopt a Walkable, Healthy Lifestyle and Live Longer:
People living to 100 years of age are increasing in the US. There were 96,548 centenarians in 2009, up from 38,300 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau. A Swedish study of identical twins separated at birth who grew up apart concluded only about 20 to 30 percent of longevity is determined by genes. Lifestyle is a more dominant ingredient.
Health benefits abound for those who walk, especially for people older than 50. Physical activity may actually add years to your life. Elderly adults who walk are less likely to suffer mental deterioration or dementia, based on a Pittsburgh University study. Walk Score’s Top 10 Health Benefits of Walking are especially valuable to seniors.
So no car, no problem! There are many reasons to embrace a lifestyle which includes lots of walking and less driving!
The RentSeeker.ca Team