By: Ryan Holeywell | Governing.com

Walk around Arlington County, Va., the compact, urbanized jurisdiction just outside Washington, D.C., and you may start to notice some interesting design details. The sidewalks are wide — six feet in commercial areas and five in residential neighborhoods. Pedestrian “walk/don’t walk” signals have been replaced with newer versions that count down the seconds left before the light changes. And buses sit lower, eliminating the need for passengers to climb up and down steps to board and exit.
These are just a handful of the new elements that have been implemented in recent years as Arlington has pursued a plan to prepare for its aging baby boomer population. In 2006, the county assembled a task force to examine what it would need to do to accommodate older residents. The move was prescient, but to some residents it may even have seemed unnecessary. Arlington is a bastion of young, educated, urban professionals, many of them working for the federal government and associated industries. More than one-third of the county’s residents are between the ages of 25 and 39; nationwide, fewer than one in five Americans fall into that age range. But county leaders knew that change was on the horizon. By 2030, the county’s over-65 population is projected to double, and its over-85 group is set to almost triple. In the not-too-distant future, officials realized, their relatively small population of seniors would become vastly larger. {…}