There are some interesting data in a new study from AARP, What Is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults They interviewed 4500 people 50 years and older and found that the single most important requirement for a liveable city is a nearby bus stop.
When asked what they would like to see happen, in their communities, more police was the highest priority, improved schools was second, and making streets more pedestrian friendly was third. But there is an interesting split between those who drive and those who don't; surprisingly, the non-drivers rated the importance of walkability far lower than the drivers.
According to the researchers, that's because most of non-drivers already self-selected to live in walkable areas. I also suspect the drivers are terrified about what will happen when they can't drive anymore and are stuck in the middle of unwalkable suburbs. The planning mistakes made in the past are coming back to haunt us:
The cul-de-sac design may have provided safety for the children years ago, but it may now contribute to isolation and limit the ability to get around if one can no longer drive.
This all bodes well for our cities and towns. At both ends of the demographic spectrum, from the giant baby boomer cohort to the millenials, the trend is away from car-dependent living towards tight-knit walkable communities and increased use of transit. Notwithstanding the overwhelming interest that people have in wanting to stay in their current communities as they age, a lot of active boomers are planning ahead and moving back downtown.
In the end, there are not many people of any age who would disagree with AARP's definition of a livable community:
A livable community is one that is safe and secure, has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and has supportive community features and services. Once in place, those resources enhance personal independence; allow residents to age in place; and foster residents’ engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life.