Ageless in America vs. Aging in China (Environments for Aging Conference 2011)

Environments for Aging Conference
Boomers Aren’t Interested in Aging in Place, They Are Looking to be Ageless—A Fresh Look at This Demographic
March 2011

A seminar I attended revolved around topics on what Baby Boomers want in the next 50 years, generational changes as well as the future of healthcare facilities. According to the speakers of the presentation, the Greatest Generation, those born in the early 1920’s, the population size was 5 million. 5 grew to 80, Greatest transcended to Silent, Baby Boom, Generation X, and then finally to Generation Y, according to their reports.

Baby Boomers are the very first generation that refuse to age. They prefer to live traditionally just like younger generations and to stay longer in the workforce. These “empty nesters” desire the need for urbanization and connectivity.

The word “sustainable” comes to the picture where ages 50 plus are striving for stability, agelessness and connection with other generations.

This “Sustainable” Generation is skyrocketing so fast in today’s society, that urban planners are under the utmost pressures of keeping up with the wants and needs of empty nesters and preparation for “ageless” senior living. Therefore the term, “walkable urbanism”, comes to surface.

As population booms for generations older than Baby Boomers, like the Silent, the demand increases for them to co-habitat with their family members as opposed to living independently or in assisted living. These multi-generational families are living “sustainably” and are keeping their elderly members subjected to younger lifestyle, while achieving a healthy balance.

From my own readings and research, recently I have come across studies where the elderly lifestyle in China is losing support from healthcare and governmental organizations. While these mega-sized cities are over-exploding in population numbers and urban sprawl, concern for congested living conditions and failing healthcare markets are at stake. The majority of the elderly cannot afford to live “agelessly” and have much support. Therefore they sadly live alone in constricted high-rises built in unsanitary, low-income areas. Recently, CNN broadcasted a story, where Asian families are now required, by law, to visit their elderly family members. Also, due to uncontrollable population boosts, the government now requires families to reduce the number of children to allow. Despite all these shortcomings, the Chinese government is preparing their country for the future, by controlling population and demographics.

In general, the major cities have very few resources and limited governmental funding for healthcare needs. Healthcare really needs to be one of the top priorities for controlling the future in any of these over populated countries. This is the only industry that is the most stable during any economical time period. Just like a cycle, as the market goes up and down, all generations eventually reach other generations. This is where “sustainable” comes into place, again.

In order to achieve futuristic sustainability, the country, its citizens, its government, local and state need to openly consider and diversify all myriads of options in how cultural change can affect the future of its country. How many billions of dollars is it worth to spend on creating “walkable urbanism” where senior citizens already have decent amenities? Taking a little in and a little out, wisely, seems to be the best choice. Balance is key.

When any generational population increases, some countries need to have some sort of common-ground for stability measures. This control will help a country prioritize on bigger issues before consequences are suffered, such as with China. China’s mega-cities already have extremely uncontrollable issues. The United States may have great innovative efforts in improving the sustainability of the next generation, Baby Boomers and other “Walkable Urbanism” infrastructures, but sometimes priorities and balance need to step in. This is the reason why “sustainability” also means the “ability to sustain”.

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