Tag Archives: Geography

AARP Online Retirement Livability Index

A new AARP Livability Index can tell you how your city or town (or the place you’re thinking about relocating) ranks as a place to live and grow older. The Livability Index, which can rate practically any neighborhood in the U.S., goes live this week, according to The Washington Post and a host of other mainstream media outlets. You can find it at aarp.org/livabilityindex. (Interestingly, many MSM sources fail to give the url for the new AARP tool.)

AARP describes the new resource as follows:

“The Livability Index is a signature initiative of the Public Policy Institute to measure the quality of life in American communities across multiple dimensions: housing, transportation, neighborhood characteristics, environment, health, opportunity, and civic and social engagement.

An interactive, easily navigated website, the Livability Index allows users to compare communities, adjust scores based on personal preferences and learn how to take action to make their own communities move livable.”

I entered my Maryland zip code into the system and found out in about half a second that my Gaithersburg neighborhood rates 59 on a scale of zero to 100. I also received specific ratings on the following livability measures:

  • Housing (affordability and access)
  • Transportation (safe and convenient options)
  • Environment (clean air and water)
  • Health (prevention, access and quality)
  • Engagement (civic and social involvement)
  • Opportunity (inclusion and possibilities)

Housing in my neighborhood rates a measly 36. Not a surprise to me. I already know that generally speaking, you can’t buy or rent a home in Montgomery County, MD, unless you’re affluent. You need two middle-class incomes or one high income to support a family here. (That’s why I’m researching communities in Florida. The cost of living in many parts of Florida is quite reasonable, compared to the Maryland suburbs. Needless to say, the AARP Livability Index will be a great help in my search.)

On the positive side, my neighborhood rates high in Health (79), and gets pretty good scores of 64 on both Neighborhood and Engagement. (I’m doubtful about the high rating for Engagement. If AARP considered voter turnout in the last election, we would rank much lower.)

Transportation rates 56. Even if you own a car, that’s an optimistic number. The Washington, D.C. area is notorious for rush hour traffic. If you depend on public transportation, I dunno. My part of Montgomery County is past the end of the line for the Metro subway. And Metro overall? I don’t have to ride the subway every day, and I’m glad I don’t. MARC commuter trains are good if both your home and workplace are near a rail station.

The transportation score could go up or way down in the future, depending on whether our leaders and voters are willing to fund plans for the Purple Line in the southern parts of Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, and Bus Rapid Transit in northern Montgomery.

Take a look at the AARP Livability Index. How does your hometown rate? Are your civic leaders going to be bragging, or running for cover?

— John Hayden

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Filed under Aging, Housing, Life, Maryland

Worldwide Blog Readership

It’s fascinating to know that a WordPress blog can be viewed by people all over this wide world. My blog is in fact visited by people from many faraway places. Maybe they should call it WorldPress. I wonder if that URL is available?

Most days, my readers are mostly from the U.S. and Canada, followed by a few in the U.K. and/or Australia. Oddly, most days the blog gets a view or three from the Cayman Islands. Why do you suppose my poor blog is on the radar in the Caymans?

Yesterday and today have not been ordinary days. Fewer than half my visitors have been in the U.S. The most popular post on my blog these past two days has been “Russian Toilets,” and readers are visiting from many different countries, especially in Europe. My only explanation is that the impending Winter Olympics in Sochi are generating a feeding frenzy for anything and everything about Russia and Sochi.

If you’re not a WordPress blogger, you may wonder how I know the location of my readers. On my blog’s stats dashboard, WordPress provides an array of information about the source of readers, including a world map noting the number of visitors from each country. If you’re concerned about privacy, be assured that the map doesn’t identify readers by name, only by country. If you’re interested in totals, then I must honestly say the numbers are modest. Some blogs register traffic in the thousands regularly. My blog rarely breaks into triple digits in a single day, but does hit triple digits every week.

For those with a greater interest in readership gossip, yesterday I had visitors from the U.S. and Canada, plus visitors from nearly every small country in Europe, plus the U.K., Germany and Poland. But none from France or Spain. I can only guess that people in France and Spain prefer to read blogs in their own language, while most others throughout Europe know English and use it when they wish.

Also yesterday, something unusual — seven visits from Trinidad and Tobago! But not one from the Caymans. And oddly, not a single visit from any continent other than North America and Europe.

Today, the interest in Russian Toilets, or whatever, expanded to include five visitors from Ukraine, plus two each from Russia, Australia, and the Caymans. And one visitor from Hong Kong! Still not a single visitor yesterday or today from South America or Africa, though I have had a few from those continents in the past.

Blog readers of the world: Unburden yourselves! Please comment at will. What would you like to read about? I take requests.

— John Hayden


Filed under Blogging

Lessons From Hurricane Sandy — Part 1 of Many Parts

It's global warming, stupid

(Photo credit: scriptingnews)

A respectable business magazine is out with the cover headline:

“It’s Global Warming, Stupid”

Fair enough. Quibble about the causes and terminology, if you must, but face reality.

I suggest two related subjects clamoring for serious consideration in the public square (or in smoke-filled back rooms) going forward:

“Geography Is Destiny”


“It’s Infrastructure, Stupid”

What do you think? Suggestions for additional subjects to include in the syllabus? Extra credit for class participation.

— John Hayden

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Filed under Future, Life, News

Geography of Life After Sixty: You Do Have A Choice



We haven’t talked about geography in a while. Have you ever thought about relocating to a better place?

Like, “If Congress is stupid enough to kill Medicare, I’m moving to Canada!”

If you’re retired and living on Social Security, you might actually have the freedom to make a considered decision about the best place for you, personally.

Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth, must be doing something right. Public domain photo

Turns out, Canada’s not a bad choice. In Time’s list of the 10 Happiest Countries in the World, Canada comes in third, behind only Denmark and Sweden. Australia is fourth and New Zealand is eighth. These Commonwealth countries must have a secret. Could it be their health care systems? Ireland, my favorite place to consider living, is 10th. Come to think of it, I guess all the countries in the top  10 have universal health care. The U.S. does pretty well, at 12th place, considering we have health care that’s more expensive and less effective than many countries.

In a ranking of the Most Livable Cities in the World, Australia has four(!) in the top 10 and Canada has three. Vancouver, Canada (most livable city in the world four years in a row!), and Melbourne, Australia took first and second place. If you’re gazing north across the border, Calgary and Toronto also make the top 10. Pittsburgh(!) is the top-ranked U.S. city, at 28th.

Gazing south across the border? Dunno. People used to retire to Mexico for the low cost-of-living. But I hear they’ve got an out-of-control drug war going just now.

As always, these rankings of places are subjective. You have to consider what factors were considered in the rankings. What’s important to you? Health care? Cost of living? Climate?

— John Hayden

(Quick-take rating for this post: 342 words)


Filed under Health