In theory, the cultural attractions, recreational opportunities and transportation options that make cities desirable to so many Americans also make them great places for older people looking to stay social and active, which research shows is critical to healthy aging. Yet obstacles such as the high cost of living and inaccessible transit systems can force some older Americans out of cities.
That may finally be changing, thanks to a new national movement to make cities more hospitable to the 75% of Americans who currently live in–and want to grow old in–urban centers. Since 2014, 140 mayors from across the U.S. have signed a pledge to make their cities more senior-friendly, and Los Angeles recently announced that it hopes to best them all. In May, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti launched a plan to make the sprawling metropolis the most aging-friendly city in the U.S.
Like that of most cities, L.A.’s older population is booming: the number of residents ages 65 and older is expected to double, to more than 2.1 million, by 2030. To make L.A. better for them, the city is considering plans to improve the transportation system, which leaves much of the city inaccessible, to create more walkable spaces and accommodating parks, and to create more affordable housing.
“Evidence suggests that cities that enable successful aging end up having the most vibrant and effective economies and cultures,” says Paul Irving, chairman of the Center for the Future of Aging at the Milken Institute, who is involved with L.A.’s efforts.
Other cities, including Chicago, Atlanta and New York, are pledging to follow suit.
This appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of TIME.