Professor Mildred Warner

Over the decades, communities have developed with a focus on segregating housing from commercial uses, with attention given to the role of the commuting worker. … Our zoning guidelines have traditionally promoted segregated land use, which can make it difficult for women, their children and seniors to get between home and work and home and school or child care. It doesn’t have to be that way.

FROM: AARP Livable Communities – Livability In Action series

So many aspects of daily life could be less time-consuming and less stressful, says urban planning professor Mildred Warner, if our spaces and places were more smartly defined.

Family life and gender roles have changed since the 1950s. Many land-use and zoning policies have not.

When Mildred Warner’s first child was born in 1990, she discovered that her upstate New York community — like many communities both then and now — didn’t have a sufficient supply of affordable, high-quality child care.

“I wondered, ‘How could this happen? How could a critical support for working parents be ignored?'” she recalls.

So a few years later, the Cornell University professor of city and regional planning, and mother of two, began working to help communities nationwide integrate child care into their economic development plans. Warner soon realized that older adults and their caregivers faced similar challenges. Many of the features recommended by experts for how to make communities more livable for senior citizens are important for families with young children as well. — Interview as told to Sally Abrahms

At an AARP session 10 years ago, Warner realized that most elements that make a community a good place for aging in place also make it a good place to raise children. Warner’s Planning Across Generations project helps communities plan for the needs of the aging and the young.