Daily News staff
SUDBURY – Officials will focus on improving transportation, affordable housing, and opportunities for socializing for seniors, after they reviewed a report that examined how all-age and dementia-friendly the town is.
Jan Mutchler, a professor at the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, presented key findings from the 136-page Livable Sudbury report at a recent community meeting held at the Sudbury Senior Center. Beginning last April, researchers reviewed relevant town reports or plans completed within the last five years, held community forums, and formed targeted focus groups.
The assessment will inform its master plan and be available to all town departments. Below are key points from the report.
Mutchler called transportation for seniors an important feature of any “livable” community.
“Even if you have a great community, if you don’t have a way to get to places, it doesn’t work so well, at least for people who need transportation support,” said Mutchler.
The report showed that 18 percent of respondents were satisfied with transportation opportunities in the town, with some respondents cancelling medical appointments because of a lack of transportation. Some seniors were concerned they may have to leave Sudbury once they are unable to drive.
They spotlighted driving barriers, traffic, walkability, and overall satisfaction with available transit options as significant issues, saying they wanted a convenient way to get to Boston, less traffic congestion, and more walkable sidewalks.
Improving Sudbury’s livability within the transportation domain will require improving access to existing options, such as ride-sharing services, and new transit options, such as transit to local rail stations, said Mutchler.
32 percent who responded to the survey said they did not feel Sudbury had affordable housing available, while a little over 40 percent felt there were. About 28 percent said they were unsure. Key challenges relating to housing focused on the cost, including property tax levels, and availability of housing options that support staying in Sudbury.
“People feel like there’s only a certain kind of income level who can afford to buy into this market,” said Mutchler.
To move the needle on the housing issue, the town should require expanding affordable and market-rate options for downsizing, increasing the availability of smaller homes, including rental units, and expanding housing options specifically for older adults. Smaller and denser housing in walkable districts could improve livability.
Mutchler also suggested raising awareness on opportunities to reduce property taxes and potentially expanding access to existing property tax relief programs as a way to allow some residents to stay in their homes and remain financially secure.
Mutchler called opportunities for social participation a strength for Sudbury, but said there was some unevenness within that. While many respondents were satisfied, others who are not financially stable said there were things to do in town, but they could not afford them.
“One outcome of lacking participation opportunities might be isolation or lacking connection,” said Mutchler.
Mutchler suggested neighborhood-based programs as a way to combat isolation, as well as inter-generational programs.