Aging in Cambridge

The Community Development Department working with the Department of Human Service Programs has been exploring the housing needs of the senior population.

In the report Aging in the Cambridge Community the Department of Human Services outlines the range of services available to seniors in Cambridge, and the Community Development Department discusses key issues in the planning areas of transportation, economic development, zoning, parks and housing.

At the same time, the Community Development Department completed a report entitled Housing Options for Older Cantabrigians that provides a demographic review of the Cambridge residents 55 and older and an assessment of their existing housing options. This report was the first part of a two stage process.

The second part of the review of housing needs of elders was conducted through the 2011 Silver Ribbon Commission.  Read the report of the Commission Creating a Vision: Cambridge as an Aging Friendly Community: Housing Options 2012-2030.

Aging in Cambridge Housing Action Plan and Survey

Following the December 2012 release of the Silver Ribbon Commission (SRC) report, the Community Development Department has been implementing the recommendations of the Commission. In a series of community meetings this spring, we informed residents about the findings and recommendations of the SRC and gathered information to assist in next steps. As part of the Year I Action Plan, we also established the Silver Ribbon Subcommittee to collaborate in the development of a housing survey for Cambridge elders and baby boomers. 

Two surveys were completed during the Summer of 2013. A professional survey company conducted the Aging in Cambridge: Housing Options for Residents 55+ telephone survey. In addition, the Community Development Department conducted a supplemental web survey during the same period. Between the statistically significant phone survey and the web survey we heard from over 530 Cambridge residents 55+ (400 phone, 138 web).

Read the Final Report of the telephone-based Housing Options for Residents 55+ survey.

Read the Summary of Findings from the web-based survey.

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Two surveys were completed during the Summer of 2013. A professional survey company conducted the Aging in Cambridge: Housing Options for Residents 55+ telephone survey. In addition, the Community Development Department conducted a supplemental web survey during the same period. Between the statistically significant phone survey and the web survey we heard from over 530 Cambridge residents 55+ (400 phone, 138 web).

The surveys addressed issues including residents’ current living situations, considerations for future moves, housing preferences, and demographic information. Overall, respondents expressed a level of comfort with their existing housing, yet results show residents’ uncertainty about their future health, mobility, and in some instances, their financial security.

Between the phone survey and the web survey there are notable differences between each sample. The phone survey was conducted by a professional survey company using street listing data from voting records, thus it provides a more accurate sample of the Cambridge population. Keep in mind for the web survey that the respondents are self-selected by virtue of being on neighborhood organizations and city listservs including the Mayor’s Office, the Community Development Department, and divisions of the Department of Human Service Programs. For this reason, the web survey does not represent the preferences and demographics of all Cambridge residents 55+, but it does engage residents who are already involved with current local issues and have a vested interest in the aging in community planning process.

On November 10, 2010 the Community Development Department and the Department of Human Service Programs sponsored a panel discussion for seniors and those approaching their senior years - What’s Next: Housing Options as We Age.

The focus of the discussion was the question of where to live as we age. Faced with the question of remaining in their homes versus moving, many people are unsure of what services and housing choices are available to help guide that choice. This panel discussion helped frame the choices both for individuals and for Cambridge as a community. Our speakers were knowledgeable about nonprofit, for profit, and public housing as well as housing and elder services.

From March 2011 to January  2012 the Mayor’s Silver Ribbon Commission met to discuss in detail housing options for seniors in Cambridge. The Department of Human Services Programs and the Community Development Department supported the efforts of the Commission. After studying demographic trends and current housing programs and choices for seniors, the Commission recommended adopting Ten Principles of Healthy Aging  Housing Design (HA), including affordability, sustainability, accessibility, age mix, service integration, technology-friendly and integration with community.  In addition the Commission recommended the following next steps:

  • Publicizing information the information of the Silver Ribbon Report (to be published in spring 2012) to raise awareness of existing senior housing facilities, programs and services. 
  • Conducting a survey of Cambridge elders and baby boomers to determine what kind of housing seniors and those who will be seniors in the next ten years want. 
  • Reviewing  the Zoning Ordinance for creative ways to encourage the development of housing for seniors and their caretakers. 
  • Finding ways to bring seniors and the community together by supporting existing community efforts that are neighborhood based.
  • Promoting the concept of universal design should be promoted to make access to buildings more accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
  • Considering a pilot program for an intergenerational shared housing project that would implement many of the recommendations of the Commission, if there is sufficient demand for such a project.

The findings of the Comission are discussed in the report Creating a Vision: Cambridge as an Aging Friendly Community: Housing Options 2012-2030.

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For more information contact Stuart Dash, Community Planning Director, at 617/349-4640 or sdash@cambridgema.gov.