Local governments face the dual challenge of meeting the needs of children and of an aging population. ICMA staff have known anecdotally that some local governments have found creative approaches to meeting the needs of all age groups in their communities through multigenerational planning efforts. In order to document these approaches so that local governments across the country can learn about successful initiatives, ICMA partnered with Cornell University to conduct a survey on “Planning Across Generations.”
Over the next few months, local governments that have multigenerational programs in place will be highlighted in ICMA newsletters and on the website. The first is Elk Grove Village, Illinois (pop. 33,350).
Elk Grove Village is nearing its 50th anniversary as a council-manager form of government. A fully planned community, Elk Grove Village was designed to provide “an unparalleled quality of life for its residents” and that plan was implemented over the next 50 years by only four village managers (including current manager Ray Rummel). The community’s vision and family values have been carried forward since the inception of the plan.
As Village Manager Ray Rummel describes it, this “unparalleled quality of life” mission was accomplished through three approaches:
- Thoughtful planning of neighborhoods to meet the needs of all residents from children through seniors.
- The development of a 6-square mile business park adjacent to O’Hare Airport. The business park provides a significant tax base, which is used to provide high-quality governmental services, including schools, parks, libraries, and recreation, as well as general government.
- Continual attention toward being a family-friendly community.
This plan has led to what the mayor describes as people never leaving the village. He points to the fact that over half of his high school graduating class still live in the community some 36 years later. In fact, 78% of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that communities that keep people for their entire lifespan are more vibrant.
As for the plan, each residential neighborhood was thoughtfully designed to include a local school(s), convenience shopping, large parks, a church, and easy access to roadways. In addition, a large portion of the residential community was designed around a 10-square-mile forest preserve (one of the first preserves in the nation), that now includes extensive bike paths, pristine meadows, a lake for boating and fishing, and is even home to the town’s namesake: a herd of Elk.
Adding to the ambience, each neighborhood was completed with full sidewalks for pedestrian travel, decorative street lights and signage, and a shade tree in every parkway.
A great deal of thought was placed into ensuring that residents could age gracefully within the community. Two independent senior living facilities were developed in Elk Grove. Free dial-a-ride bus service on given days allows the residents to attend doctor’s visits and shopping at additional venues in the village. Moreover, a senior citizen facility was developed to offer meals, friendship, and entertainment to seniors. In addition, a recreation facility was constructed in the center of town to provide additional services such as indoor pools, exercise facilities, and even art classes. Finally, to ensure seniors can stay in the community, two assisted senior facilities were planned and constructed in town.
A large hospital was also planned and constructed (Alexian Brothers Medical Center) to meet the medical needs of the region. The medical center includes physician offices of every kind, and the hospital even accepted its role as a care giver by providing a beautiful hospice house to meet the needs of terminally ill patients. This is one of the few such facilities allowed in the state of Illinois.
As for families, Elk Grove Village strives to provide a low-cost, family-friendly environment. For instance, described Rummel, the community operates a children’s theme park (Pirate’s Cove), a water park (Rainbow Falls), and even offers two “spray parks” where families can enjoy hours of free entertainment.
During the summer months, there are a myriad of family activities. In June, community volunteers operate a carnival/festival and a children’s rodeo. Throughout July, the community hosts free concerts by well-known rock groups. The food and drink at the concerts are set at a family-friendly price of $5 per person. In August, free concerts are held at a gazebo to serve the older demographic.
Elk Grove Village is one of the many respondents to the “Planning Across Generations” survey that demonstrates the value of multigenerational planning. More examples will be shared in the coming months. A summary of the survey results is available on the ICMA website.