(Courtesy of Oregon State University)

Location matters, regardless of the type of housing that someone resides in, the AARP Public Policy Institute’s director of livability thought leadership told McKnight’s Senior Living on Thursday, the day that data analyzed from the newly updated AARP Livability Index were released. It marked the first full update of the index since its launch in 2015.

The tool uses more than 50 national data sources to score every neighborhood and community in the United States based on the seven categories of livability: housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity.

“We visited cities across the country and looked at senior housing near and far from transit and found that it makes a difference for older adults,” Rodney Harrell said. “Those near transit stations and those that lived in safe, walkable communities (the kind that would score highly on the index) benefitted from that access — they were active, and their relatives found it easier to visit them.”

Along with overall livability trends, the AARP identifies the top 10 large, mid-size and small cities on the index. Half of this year’s top-scoring cities also are members of the AARP Network of Age Friendly States and Communities.

San Francisco topped the Livability Index list of large cities (population 500,000 or more), Madison, WI, led mid-size cities (population 100,000 to 499,999) and Fitchburg, WI, was tops among small cities (population 25,000 to 99,999).

The organization’s research found that most older adults want to stay in their homes, but even those planning to move into a senior living community should think about the neighborhoods where those communities are located, Harrrell said.

“For example, do they have the features and services that can best support them as they age: access to public transportation, health services and places to connect and socialize?” he said. “A person can look at the Livability Index to find out if the town or city where the senior living community is located has those features.”

Senior living operators also might find the index helpful when deciding where to build, Harrell said.

“If a senior living community is located in areas where there might not be supportive services, they can partner with residents, local officials and local organizations to provide services that they may not have in the community,” he said. “However, it is more efficient to build in a community that already has a range of livability features than it is to artificially recreate all of the livable community elements.”