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Public policy / government

Bright ideas for a graying population

Jan Mutchler of UMass Boston is leading the movement to make the city more conducive to healthy aging.

joanne gebal for the boston globe

Boston just keeps getting better with age — literally. And Jan Mutchler is leading the movement to make the city more conducive to healthy aging.

Mutchler, a professor of gerontology at UMass Boston, is director of the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging, part of the university’s Gerontology Institute. She’s also the creator of the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, which summarizes the cost of living for older adults nationally.

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Supported by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, the Gerontology Institute, Boston’s Elderly Commission, and AARP Massachusetts conducted multilingual surveys and neighborhood listening sessions to assess the needs of the city’s aging population. “We were able to hear from more than 3,600 people,” Mutchler, 59, says. “We learned that people love this city and want to stay.”

Boston joined a network of roughly 150 “age-friendly” cities and towns across the United States in 2014. The age-friendly designation, created by the World Health Organization, is part of a strategy to help older people stay connected with their communities. Age-friendly means more than just safe sidewalks; Mutchler is working to implement learning programs, affordable housing units, and avenues for the elderly to participate in their neighborhoods.

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Boston is projected to have as many as 140,000 residents 60 and older by 2030 — 19 percent of the city’s population, up from 14 percent in 2010.

The city plans to launch a comprehensive plan this month to address aging residents’ concerns about accessibility, inclusivity, transportation, and housing, Mutchler says. “Those things all intersect with one another,” she explains. “Being able to get help with your lawn, being able to get health care — all of those things are important if you’re going to stay in your home and age in the community.”

Shelby Grebbin is a Globe correspondent. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.
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