According to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the number of people aged over 60 is expected to increase by 40% over the next twenty years, suggesting that "our post-retirement years will be longer and healthier." There is no doubt, therefore, that people in this age group will have a greater economic, social and political power - but how will this affect our cities?
RIBA's think tank, Building Futures, has published a report envisaging a future in which people may choose "luxurious, international retirement lifestyles" or "live with their families in one grand design." It suggests that "our beleaguered high streets could take on a new lease of life, with health hubs, child care facilities, universities and coastal towns, traditionally favored by older generations but currently facing big social and economic challenges, could all be transformed by a more active retired population."
As part of the report, Building Futures suggests six possible scenarios for our cities:
- Members’ Club Mansion Block: A New Urban Lifestyle: Traveling the world and staying in hostels is an idea more often associated with student gap years. In 2040, the next generation of third agers could have turned the idea on its head. Non-essential material possessions disposed of and without the burden of property ownership, an international network of residences could replace home ownership allowing this generation to explore the world in style and comfort.
- Reinventing the Family Home: In this scenario, the traditional nuclear family’s time is over and an increase in multi-generational living has begun to shape exciting new types of homes capable of meeting the needs of the whole family. In a world where healthcare and childcare is costly, this option will be a necessity for some, but provide a way of living together whilst maintaining some privacy.
- The High Street Revived: This scenario suggests active third agers could stimulate a radical revival of our beleaguered high streets. Up and down the country, local high streets could become a fusion of public amenity, private enterprise and intergenerational exchange, all activated by third agers utilizing their skills, time and energy to improve their community for themselves and their families.
- Seaside Enterprise Zones: A New Local Economy: The idea of flexible work for those who want or need to continue to use their skills, new leisure and social opportunities and the prospect of more affordable living could attract investment from active third agers and kick start the regeneration of coastal towns. This scenario speculates that the private sector will capitalized on the significant potential of a skilled and available older workforce - one with inadequate pension provision - and look to sponsor whole towns, building a new kind of local economy? It could be a Movie Making Studio in Margate or Samsung taking over Southport?
- City Networks: The Pop-Up University: By 2040, we could use the wealth of knowledge and skill offered by a generation who enjoyed a boom of cheaper accessible higher education. The city could become a living university. You could drop in at your local pub or community centre for your one to one, lecture (or pint of locally brewed ale) with your tutor.
- City Networks: Healthy Infrastructure: In 2013, just 1 in 5 people aged 65-74 in England do the recommended level of exercise, so an active third age is not guaranteed for everyone. To help as many people as possible achieve a fulfilling, social and active third age, in the future we could see networks of ‘health hubs’, promoting exercise in public spaces and encourage active aging and wellbeing for all. The local disused phone box could become a heart monitoring and weighing hub with vital stats automatically sent to the GP for monitoring.
Stephen Hodder, RIBA President, said that this age group is "going to become increasingly prevalent and powerful voice in the very near future. This report speculates how an active third age could have a positive impact on Britain’s economic opportunities and the very look and feel of our homes, towns and cities. But beyond the speculation, it illustrates a pressing need to plan now how we are going to respond to this clear, impending demographic shift."
You can download the Silver Linings report in full here (PDF).