Millennials are not the only ones attracted to the lights and action of the city; lots of baby boomers are moving back downtown too. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has just released an interesting study that looks at what they call "the active third age", people 60 to 74 years old, many of whom will be active and fit for a number of years yet. It is a fascinating vision for cities and towns of 2030; here are some ideas and excerpts from Silver Linings: The active third age and the city.
A more transient lifestyle?
A lot of the trends we talk about, from dematerialization to small space living, come into play here. A scenario for 2030, if you have a bit of money:
In 2030 Third-Agers are travelling more, and travelling light. Over the course of their lives their possessions have dematerialised, with music, movies, photographs, books, magazines and correspondence becoming digital rather than physical assets. Where previously such collections were the amassed clutter of an active social and cultured lifestyle, they can now be slipped into a pocket or simply projected as part of a digital persona. The life lived has come to be defined as a collection of experiences, not things. The active Third Age typify this experience-seeking, light-travelling group and roam the globe, prompting networks of members’ club mansion blocks to emerge that allow such itinerant, uncluttered and unencumbered lifestyles to flourish. Increasing numbers of Third-Agers no longer require,or desire a fixed residence, and new ways of encouraging and incentivising them to free up much needed housing for younger families has become a key priority area for Government and policy makers.
The propose a sort of 21st century version of the residential hotel. "While stylish, the apartments are economical in the amount of personal space they offer, with their design revolving around a greater focus on the shared and social spaces supporting the private dwellings; with dining, leisure and even learning used to build a very modern sense of transient community."
The Multigenerational home?
Don't have the dough for that mobile lifestyle? A lot of houses are under-occupied once the kids grow up and move out. If they were designed to be divisible in the first place, then they could easily be adapted to multi-generational homes, or have parts of them rented out for extra income.
Ad-hoc experimentation with existing building structures has also inspired more purpose built new development catering for extended families. Drawing on and expanding the ideas explored within the co-housing movement, new multigenerational communities are widespread; with shared facilities and flexibility of accommodation as defining characteristics. Families are able to expand and remain within the same location rather than moving on, or ‘up’ the housing market ladder. By mixing multiple extended families into one block, there are new opportunities to offer adaptability (as family circumstances change) while living close enough to your loved ones and responsibilities, but at a distance to allow family co-dependence with personal independence.
Revitalize Main Street?
What will the main street, or high street as they say in the UK, look like in 2030, especially after all the changes that are affecting the retail world? There is a lot of knowledge and experience walking the stree.
This cluster of expertise with both the time and technology to innovate, led to new enterprise and local business taking root locally, from small scale manufacture and 3D printing workshops to specialist consultancy; plenty of the active Third Age now work part-time, with the flexibility and proximity to continue to watch over their grandchildren. Reasons to visit daily, for a variety of purpose, have helped reinstate the high street at the heart of the local neighbourhood. A flexible and adaptable urban fabric of retail, commerce, service provision and recreation has created an ecosystem of production and consumption, of learning and working, of socialising and caring; all galvanised by the presence of the active Third Age.
The City as University?
Really, a classroom can be anywhere, the City can be a university.
The active Third-Agers have become the vanguard of this new work-learn-play lifestyle – liberated from being exclusively preoccupied with any one pursuit. Major social and commercial hubs now offer learning opportunities alongside existing products or services, to satisfy demand: libraries, high streets, theatres, galleries, public transport interchanges, cafes, all form part of an informal network of knowledge exchange and dissemination. The boundaries between work, education and leisure have blurred and the city has started to respond to this opportunity. new city educational networks have become a valuable piece of social and financial infrastructure, giving purpose and employment to those seeking to learn or teach for enjoyment or enrichment.
It is all a green, healthy vision of a revitalized city without a car in sight, a vision that " harnesses the vast potential embedded within the active Third Age to deliver a more sustainable, resilient and engaging urban experience – a city for all."