Spend 10 minutes in almost any major city around the world and you will realize that urban environments just weren’t designed with older adults in mind. From New York to London, seniors face limited transportation options, safety concerns and few multi-generational housing opportunities.
This is not to say that we don’t enjoy living in cities. Many of us love urban life. But, even so, it is clear that cities were designed with productivity and entertainment for the young in mind. Seniors, if anything, were an afterthought.
Of course, with 10,000 of us turning 65 every single day (just in the U.S.!) urban planners have a big task on their hands to make their cities more senior friendly. The clock is ticking and we are in desperate need of creative ideas.
Today, I learned that it is not just city planners who are thinking about how to create age-friendly cities. Now, middle-schoolers are also lending their ideas!
This year, the focus of the 26th Future City Competition was designing an “age-friendly city.” So, the kids planned for months and, finally, had the opportunity to present their ideas. Personally, I think they did great!
Take a quick look at this video and you’ll see why I am such a fan of this idea. Then, I’ll share some of the specific ideas that the kids had for making cities better for older adults.
So, back to the theme of “age-friendly cities.” Here are a few of the suggestions that this year’s middle-schoolers gave for making cities more usable for seniors:
Reduce loneliness by increasing the availability of multigenerational housing.
Make autonomous vehicles available to help older adults with shopping and other chores.
Use health-tracking technologies, built into the environment, to keep seniors healthy.
Convert waste into energy – the kids called it “pee pee power!” I love it!
Overall, 40,000 students participated in the competition, but, only 600 made it to the final. Not only did the kids have to describe their proposals in 1500 word essays, but, they also had to create a simulation, using the game “SimCity.”
At the end of the day, a team of students from Reston, Va won first prize. In addition to their overall design, their idea for “pee pee power” (converting wastewater into energy) really got the judges attention.
The first prize winners will receive $7,500 for their school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) departments. The kids will also get to take a trip to U.S. Space Camp. So, it’s a win-win!
What do you think are the main challenges that older adults face when it comes to living in cities? Do you like the idea of asking kids to design their own age-friendly cities with the needs of older adults top of mind? Let’s have a chat!