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 catalyst for positive change through design, <a href="">Esther Greenhouse</a>&nbsp;is a built environment strategist and environmental gerontologist and CEO of <a href="">Silver to Gold Strategies</a>. People, places, communities, and organizations benefit from her expertise in the impact of the built environment on all types of people, especially older adults. Considered a visionary for her unique and beneficial perspective, Ms. Greenhouse is the creator of the&nbsp; &ldquo;<a href="">Enabling Design Approach</a>&rdquo;-- to&nbsp;harness&nbsp;the features of the built environment to enable all people to THRIVE!&nbsp; As a consultant for AARP International, she is co-developing the multiyear initiative <a href="">Equity by Design</a>.&nbsp;Ms. Greenhouse also serves as the Strategic Director for one of the first <a href="">Age Friendly Centers for Excellence</a>.&nbsp; At Cornell University, she is shaping the field as an industry scholar for the&nbsp;<a href="">Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures</a>&nbsp;and an adjunct lecturer in the department of&nbsp;<a href="">Design &amp; Environmental Analysis</a>.&nbsp; She contributes to successful community planning with workshops and consulting nationwide, and co-authored the <a href="">American Planning Association&rsquo;s <em>Aging in Community Policy Guide</em></a>.&nbsp; Her expertise was requested for such projects as the book <a href=""><em>Independent for Life</em></a>, for two PBS series on design for aging, and for the design of the nation&rsquo;s <a href="">first senior-focused emergency department</a>. In the building industry, she has been recognized as an award-winning instructor and leader in Universal Design and aging in place by the National Association of Home Builders.</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 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