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

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