Living outside the box: sustaining the lifelong community through universal design

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Ricks, Joi Elizabeth
Sanford, Jon
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We all want to live in a healthy community. Each of us has his or her own image of what such a community should look like. That image is shaped, in part, by our reaction to the communities in which we now live or used to live. However we often take for granted the elements of communities that enable and sometimes disable many of us to remain active in a community for a lifetime. For older residents, a lifelong community would include elements that help them to maintain independence and quality of life. The physical characteristics of a community often play a major role in facilitating our personal independence. In order to combat the growing challenges and health concerns facing the American lifestyle this research proposes a set of design guidelines that promote sustainable lifelong communities that are universally designed for people of all ages and levels of physical ability. The purpose of developing a set of universal design guidelines for lifelong communities is to alleviate many of the physical barriers and challenges that prevent some Americans from active involvement in the community. The methods employed to develop these guidelines were based on literature review and analysis. This research was incorporated into a new body of practical standards that was tested against a real life community in Decatur, Georgia. These standards were edited and revised to appropriately accommodate the necessary adaptations that were discovered during the evaluation phase. The resultant guidelines are presented with the intention of becoming a usable guide for planning agencies such as the Atlanta Regional Commission and other local and national community design facilitators.
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