Using Smart Growth and Universal Design to Link the Needs of Children and the Aging Population

Family-Friendly Communities Briefing Papers 2

By Rana Abu Ghazaleh, Esther Greenhouse, George Homsy, AICP, Mildred Warner



The United States is undergoing a critical demographic transition: The population is aging. By 2040, the proportion of people over the age of 65 will top 20 percent, and people under the age of 18 will make up almost 23 percent of the population. As a result, the oldest and the youngest populations combined will make up almost half of all U.S. residents. This trend is also a global one, directly affecting planning practice worldwide (WHO 2007). As planners work to plan and design sustainable and livable communities they will need to simultaneously consider the needs of these similar, yet different, populations in future plans, policies, and projects.

This briefing papaer explains how multigenerational planning creates new coalition-building opportunities; why civic participation and engagement is essential for all age groups; and why an understanding of the needs of multiple generations is essential to smart growth and sustainable design and development.


Page Count
Date Published
June 1, 2011
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Rana Abu Ghazaleh

Esther Greenhouse
<p><a href="">Esther Greenhouse, CEO of Silver to Gold Strategic Consulting</a>,&nbsp;is a longevity strategist and environmental gerontologist bringing a unique constellation of experience and expertise in design, gerontology, environmental psychology, and planning to help organizations and communities excel at meeting the needs of the 50+ population to enable them to THRIVE!&nbsp; Her unique <a href="">Enabling Design Approach</a> is a pillar for AARP International&rsquo;s <a href="">Equity by Design</a> initiative, and informed the design of the nation&rsquo;s first <a href="">elder-focused ER</a> at the request of Dr. Bill Thomas.&nbsp; She co-authored <a href="">the American Planning Association&#39;s Aging in Community Policy Guide</a>, is an industry scholar for the&nbsp;<a href="">Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures</a>, and served as the Strategic Director for one of the nation&rsquo;s first <a href="">Age-Friendly Centers for Excellence.</a>&nbsp; The International Well Building Institute has appointed Esther to their new <a href="">Investing for Health Advisory</a>.&nbsp; She is contributing her expertise to the<a href=""> NYS Master Plan on Aging</a>.&nbsp; For 10 years she was the primary caregiver for her mother, and Esther&rsquo;s Enabling Design Approach enabled her mother to maintain her physical and financial independence longer, reduced demands on family and professional caregivers, and resulted in long term care savings of over $500,000. This is the basis of <a href="">Silver to Gold&#39;s&nbsp;Caregiving by Design Initiative</a>, to help municipalities and senior care providers address the caregiving crisis and enable greater independence and well-being among the&nbsp;seniors they&nbsp;serve.</p>

George Homsy, AICP
George Homsy is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration at Binghamton University where he directs the Sustainable Communities masters program. Homsy researches the factors that shape sustainability programs and planning policies at the municipal level. In particular, he examines the ways that cities and towns balance the environmental, economic, and equity dimensions of sustainability. Homsy also explores the nexus of heritage and sustainability, especially in neighborhoods. Before returning to Cornell University’s Department of City and Regional Planning for his PhD, Homsy was a planning consultant helping small- and medium-sized municipalities create environmentally and economically sustainable communities in New York and Massachusetts. Homsy frequently links his academic research to practice through collaborations with practice-based professional organizations, such as the American Planning Association.

Mildred Warner
Dr. Mildred Warner is a Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. She is an international expert on local government services, how to plan for more child and age-friendly cities, and how local governments promote economic development and environmental sustainability. In 2014-15 she partnered with the Women and Planning Division to conduct a survey of how planners address gender issues. In 2013 she partnered with ICMA to conduct the first national survey of Planning Across Generations with an update in 2019. She helped author APA’s 2014 Aging in Community Policy Guide. She works closely with APA and local government associations encouraging communities to employ a multigenerational planning framework. Her research can be accessed at