Students take steps to make Los Angeles more livable for older adults

An interactive map created by students highlights concentrations of seniors and resources for them in the neighborhood around USC.

From keeping pedestrians safe in Glendale to connecting people to social opportunities in Cudahy, USC students developed interactive tools to help improve quality of life for seniors across the Los Angeles region, home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of older adults—a population expected to exceed 2.1 million individuals by 2030.

Students from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, and the Spatial Sciences Institute at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences were challenged to create applications to help people age well in the communities in which they live. They identified Lifespan Improvement Districts and developed websites featuring resources—such as reporting a broken sidewalk or finding a senior center—for improving walkability, social connectedness, and other livability measures.

Their cross-disciplinary work will make an impact in the field, said Laura Trejo ’82, MSG/MPA ’86, general manager for the City of Los Angeles Department of Aging.

“I am grateful to have these very unique perspectives come together to help us think about, ‘How do we use data, and how do we present information, and therefore how do we implement innovations in our community?’” she said, speaking at a course event at Town and Gown on January 31, 2018.

The students said the experience taught them lessons around the importance of collaboration, investing in data, long-term policy planning, and throwing out any preconceived assumptions about populations they are trying to help.

“We must listen to the older adults,” said Corrine Jones, a Master of Arts in Gerontology student at the Leonard Davis School.

The applications were produced in the fall course “Age-Friendly L.A.”, a Wicked Problems Practicum sponsored by USC Provost Michael Quick, that is part of two efforts underway to help prepare for a rapidly aging society. USC Leonard Davis School Dean Pinchas Cohen is leading Provost Quick’s university-wide Ensuring Lifespan Health initiative, and the USC Leonard Davis School is a partner in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Purposeful Aging Los Angeles initiative, a multi-agency drive to make Los Angeles the most age-friendly region in the world.

Both endeavors share an aim to show benefits for all Angelenos.

“A community that works for older people works for all ages,” Trejo said.

Final Practicum Projects:

Cudahy Lifespan Improvement District—Be a Social Senior

Earthquake Response and Recover App (from Long Beach team)

Glendale Lifespan Improvement District—Pedestrian Accidents

Little Tokyo Lifespan Improvement District

USC Neighborhood – Tools for Planners and Tools for Older Adults

Vista West Lifespan Improvement District (Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista)