Is Your Environment Limiting Your Functioning?

About This Episode

Esther Greenhouse has a unique job title: built environmental strategist. She is also an environmental gerontologist, specializing in design for older adults, and she points out that the built environment often does not allow people of all ages and abilities to function at their highest level. For many, it limits functioning, which is a phenomenon known as environmental press. A big takeaway from that early work, she tells Meghan Stromberg, editor in chief of the American Planning Association, during their conversation, is that "a crucial problem that we have in our society is not understanding that the status quo of how we design and build is already for a subset of the population."

She argues that we're not thinking about these design limitations on a wide enough scale or enacting changes quickly enough — a reality the pandemic has and will complicate in myriad ways. But she offers solutions, as well as eye-opening reasons why cities and towns must value their older citizens as much as they value younger adults.

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