We Must Do Better

Posted on 11/27/23


By Catherine Taylor, AARP Rhode Island State Director

A Livable Community is one in which we have all the conditions we need to thrive – such as affordable, accessible housing and transportation, health care, and social connections.

Livability is central to our happiness and our wellbeing; it is a big reason why most people say they choose to age in place.

The release of the 2023 AARP Livability IndexTM reflects many positive aspects of Ocean State life, placing us in the top half of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. And the good news is that Rhode Island’s average state score of 54 out of 100 is up two points from a year ago.

We fared well in several categories, including Transportation – Safety & Convenience (67), Neighborhoods - Proximity and Security (59), Environment - Clean Air & Water (56), Health – Prevention, Access & Quality (55) and Engagement – Civic & Social Involvement (54).

Worth noting are Index average improvements for Rhode Island’s largest cities, all of which earned a 48 ranking in 2022. The newest rankings – Newport (58), Providence (56), Cranston and Warwick (55) and Woonsocket (52) – are encouraging.

However, the data shows Rhode Island lagging behind in affordable housing and accessibility options.

Rhode Island’s Livability Index overall housing score is a dismal 40. This is hardly surprising. Just last month I told you how the latest AARP LTSS (Long-Term Supports and Services) Scorecard ranked Rhode Island dead last in the nation when it comes to housing options for older adults.

Woonsocket topped the housing rankings with a 53, followed by Providence (50), Newport (47), Warwick (37) and Cranston (36). The national average is 48.

This underscores the need for leaders to implement policies that address rising housing costs, the insufficient supply of housing for older Rhode Islanders and growing income inequality.

According to Rodney Harrell, PhD, AARP Vice President of Family, Home, and Community, “The AARP Livability Index shows that all communities have room to improve to ensure that residents of all ages are active, engaged, and supported, particularly when it comes to affordable housing options. Everyone has a role to play – from community members to researchers, to local advocates and policymakers – to help fill the gaps between what people want and need and what their communities provide, so more older adults can live independently.”

We must all do better. One critical step forward will be in the hands of Rhode Island state legislators. They must pass legislation early in 2024 to strengthen homeowners’ ability to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to allow them to age in place, support a family member, or house a caregiver. This legislation is a top AARP Rhode Island State House priority. Expanding housing options for older Rhode Islanders cannot wait.

You can learn the ABCs of ADUs on our web site and send a message urging your state lawmaker to pass ADU legislation. Visit www.aarp.org/RIADUs and make your voice heard.

And I encourage you to learn more about your community. The AARP Livability Index platform aims to inform and encourage residents, local advocates, researchers, and policymakers to take action to make their communities great places to live for people of all ages.

You can search the website by address, ZIP code, or community to find an overall or category score, identify challenges in your community and compare your neighborhood to others across performance benchmarks. Access the tool at https://livabilityindex.aarp.org/.

This story is provided by AARP Rhode Island. Visit the AARP Rhode Island page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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