(Yesterday doesn’t count resolution-wise because I was traveling and didn’t have access to the Internet for most of the day. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

So, raise your hand if you’ve heard of Alton, Illinois. Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ve heard of it because of its bridge, since I absolutely love cable-stay bridges, and I’m fascinated by how they appear in the unlikeliest places (like Redding, CA, or Alton). The New York Times had a story recently about residential conversion of downtown lofts and other buildings, in part because of Alton’s location within commuting distance of St. Louis (across that beautiful bridge). But all of the people they quote in the article are past retirement age, and are either “coming home” from other parts of the country or are selling their suburban houses and moving somewhere they can walk instead of drive.

For all of the attention that gets paid to the “creative class” and how important it is to attract them with trendy restaurants and lofts and other acoutrements of a cool downtown, retirees are a largely-ignored demographic when it comes to urban redevelopment. And yet, it makes so much sense to focus on these folks: they’re growing in number, they want to walk rather than drive as they age, many of them have disposable income for the shops and restaurants that keep a downtown vital, they probably grew up in an era where walking was still seen as a viable mode of transportation, and they don’t all want “adult communities” (which always makes me think they’re x-rated or something) or “assisted living”. I wish more places would focus on urban development as it pertains to the aging population; it could make a big difference in how our cities look, and how mobile and active our population continues to be as it ages. So, go Alton!

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