To help people age 50 and older see how well their community is meeting their needs, the AARP has rated places for dozens of factors, including housing, neighborhoods, transportation, environment and health.
It then developed a list of the 30 most livable cities, and guess what city didn’t make the cut? Kansas City. In cities with populations of 500,000 people or more, San Francisco came in No. 1 as a city on “track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2017.” That gives people an idea of what mattered in the ratings.
Boston as No. 2 was called a city in partnership with the navigation app Waze, which “makes Beantown’s real-time road conditions easy to check.” No. 3 was Seattle with its 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail and Camp Long, with 10 rustic cabins, which “help make the city tops for parks in the big-city category.”
The rest in the big-city lot were Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
In the 100,000 to 500,000 category, AARP ranked Madison, Wis., tops, followed by St. Paul, Minn.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Rochester, Minn.; Minneapolis; Arlington, Va.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Lincoln, Neb.; Fargo, N.D.; and Cambridge, Mass. Kansas City should have been in that group.
The top cities in the 25,000 to 100,000 population category were La Crosse, Wis.; Fitchburg, Wis.; Bismarck, N.D.; Sun Prairie, Wis.; Duluth, Minn.; Union City, N.J.; Grand Island, Neb.; Kirkland, Wash.; Marion, Iowa; and West Bend, Wis.
AARP rates the top cities for staying healthy, where people engage in healthy lifestyles, doctors and hospitals are plentiful and there’s great access to exercise opportunities. Again, no Kansas City.
AARP listed the top cities that are easy to get around in. Again, no Kansas City.
AARP ranked the top 30 cities for date night, according to their “performing arts companies, museums, concert venues, sports stadiums and movie theaters.” St. Louis made the cut, coming in at No. 3 for cities in the 100,000 to 500,000 category. Kansas City wasn’t to be found.
Under the best cities for making friends, the AARP standards were “residents look out for family and neighbors, join civic groups, vote in high numbers and have easy access to the digital world.” Kansas City isn’t listed here, and this is something our cow town often brags about.
Kansas City’s shortcomings should cause city officials to examine how improvements can be made so that it makes all of the AARP lists next year. Until then, the good news is that a lot of these places that did make the AARP lists are close enough to Kansas City that people living here can drive to them and see what we’re missing.
A prepared statement notes: “AARP defines a livable community as one that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life. It's a place where people can get to where they want to go, living comfortably and in good health, and being able to remain active and engaged. Importantly, the elements that make a community livable are useful for people of all ages, not just Americans 50-plus.”
In addition, people can type their address into the AARP site to learn how their community rates in livability. AARP’s Livability Index is fueled by a national survey of 4,500 people age 50 and older and dozens of experts at the AARP Public Policy Institute, giving “the best basis for comparing localities across the nation.”
For example where I have lived, Hyde Park in Kansas City received an overall score of 58. Martin City in south Kansas City was below that at 48, downtown Kansas City was 51, Northland was 56, and the Northeast area was rated 57. The communities received separate scores on housing, the neighborhood, transportation, the environment, health, engagement and opportunity. Scores of zero to 15 are not good; scores of 90 or more are exceptional.
The AARP notes that the livability index will be more important to people in the future to “address the changing needs and wants of this country’s aging population.”