One of the things I find most worrisome about the reality of so many of us aging at home, is the challenge to stay connected. The marketing and demographic forces act like we are one silver haired customer. Yet senior centers are rebuffed by many younger seniors as not the place to go. In reality we are a very diverse generation in our values, our tastes and ambitions and of course assets. As we look toward the predicted scenario of most seniors staying in their original homes and communities, these differences create challenges. The boosters of the longevity economy are coming up with newer in home technology and age based services, everything they touch turns to silver branding. But what about the dark cloud of social isolation that looms over us?
After retirement most seniors will choose to stay put rather than clumping together in 55 plus communities. As I continue to read about downsizing alternatives, co- housing and high end retirement communities with multiple amenities, I am struck by how out of financial reach they are for many. So what is the solution to avoid becoming a nation of shut ins? As a recent article in Time Magazine outlines we do no need to become a nation of Floridas. Places like The Villages in Florida are cities unto themselves with their own norms and aspirations. Yet they are out of the common view as well. They will face their own set of problems as they truly age in place enmasse.
Will views of aging change as the new age wave of boomers stay staunchly in their own communities? Most of us are not going to disappear into the golf carted enclaves of sunny places. It used to be the only time you would see someone of advanced age is visiting your own immediate relatives in a nursing home. Our gray/ silver heads are already everywhere. Is ageism going to be tempered by our continued presence or made the worse. Old people jokes are starting to multiply already.
What will make the difference is a reality in which older folks remain active, volunteering, trying to continue being a part of the the whole social mix. We may never be one band of brothers (or sisters) but how about a patchwork quilt of civic-ally engaged citizens who do not fade back at all. We will ultimately be responsible for putting this together as the years pass.