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Planning Across Generations

Overview: The needs of families with young children and seniors wanting to age in place are not adequately addressed in many communities. Children and seniors have unique requirements relating to housing and neighborhood design, parks and recreation, and transportation. Communities that address these needs benefit both socially and economically. This section gives practicing planners the background and tools they need to implement family-friendly initiatives. Multi-generational planning is based on inclusive design, shared services, and a common vision to meet the needs of all residents. 

Click here to view the most recent Warner team publications on this subject.

Prepared by the American Planning Association, as part of a collaborative project with Cornell University Linking Economic Development and Child Care Project, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Peppercorn Foundation.

This briefing paper explores four key points for planners to consider when addressing the needs of multiple generations in the planning for healthy, sustainable communities. It explains how multigenerational planning creates new coalition-building opportunities; why civic participation and engagement is essential for all age groups; and why an understanding of the needs of multiple generations is essential to smart growth and sustainable design and development.

  • Joint Use: School Community Collaboration.
    Lydia Morken and Rebecca Baran-Rees. 2012. Issue Brief. Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University.

    Joint use agreements allow cities and school districts to find practical and programmatic synergies by maximizing use of school buildings, athletic fields, parks, libraries, and other often under-utilized community assets. Facility and program sharing enhance service effectiveness in meeting the needs of children and the broader community.
  • Multigenerational Planning: Linking the Needs of Children and Elders
    Esther Greenhouse, George Homsy, and Mildred E. Warner. Planning for Family Friendly Communities Briefing Paper. Cornell University, April 2010.

    The new pressures of an aging society require that we recognize the shared economic and community issues faced by different generations and across different ethnicities. This brief discusses ways that such a mindset has started to germinate. Planners must be at the forefront of  building new conversations, new coalitions and new shared strategies that link the generations and build more sustainable communities. 
  • The Center for Michigan explores the challenges rural communities face when addressing the needs of both elder and young populations. Click here to read the article Down and Out in Lake Country.

Child and Family Friendly Planning 

Click here for information related to the particular needs of children and young families.

Planning for the Aging Population

Click here for specific information related to elders. 

Webinars and Presentations

Information and materials related to webinars and presentations on Planning Across Generations is available here


ICMA/Cornell Planning across Generations Survey 2013
The “Planning Across Generations” Survey was a joint project of USDA, Cornell University, and ICMA. It was conducted in the fall of 2013 and closed in May 2014. Surveys were mailed to 7,948 city-type and county governments. An online option was also available. The survey response rate is 19%, with 1,478 local governments responding. The survey explores how city leaders consider the needs of both families with young children and elders.  The survey has excellent coverage of urban, suburban and rural communities. For analysis of results see ICMA Municipal Yearbook chapter.

In 2008 Cornell University collaborated with the American Planning Association (APA) to conduct a survey of planners’ roles in creating family friendly communities.The survey was developed in focus groups of practicing planners with support from several APA regional and subject area divisions (e.g. housing and community development, planning and women). It explored three general sets of questions: planners’ attitudes about the importance of families to communities, actions planners can take to support families, and barriers to the creation of family friendly communities.

View the full results here.

The results also are discussed in the following APA Planning Advisory Service (PAS) memo:
Planning for Family Friendly Communities, by Evelyn Israel and Mildred Warner (November/December 2008).