The New Life-Plan is Blended

aging in place

Wake up and live in Sun City
for an active new way of life.
Wake up and live in Sun City
Mr. Senior Citizen and wife.
Don’t let retirement get you
down! Be happy in Sun City;
it’s a paradise-town.

~Radio advertising jingle
Del Webb Corporation, 1960

Aging in Place

One of the most influential books on aging I ever read was the late Betty Friedan’s Fountain of Age (1993). I read that book so many times the pages were dog-eared and marked up.

She and many others like Ken Dychthwald, PhD, have introduced me to concepts and terms that are a part of my everyday speech. “Gerontophobia” which is defined as the fear of aging or growing old—is a good example.

Betty Friedan suggested gerontophobia was the denial of age by the society at large and the cause of “leisure-world ghettos.” She argued that our fear of old people causes society to sequester elders away from society so as not to remind us of our aging selves.

It wasn’t always like this; elders were once the keepers of the stories in agrarian societies with ensured roles and status as landowners and workers. Then the industrial revolution of the 1800s ushered in an era of aging as a scientific problem and the body-as-machine (peak and decline model) viewpoint. Older workers couldn’t keep pace with the industrial revolution’s work mode, and many ended up as causalities on the scrap pile of social perceptions as no longer useful to society.

Late-nineteenth century physician I. L. Nascher (who coined the term “geriatrics” for the study of aging) said: “The old man does not know what is best for him…he cannot accommodate himself to new conditions brought about by the progress of civilization.”
Here’s the problem with Doc Nascher’s statement; professional prescriptions end up as public policy—among them old-aged homes and mandatory retirement. In turn, popular perceptions (rather than reality) shape social expectations and cause a fear of aging!

I once read a study done to determine which society of elders has the best memory retention. Researchers determined it was the Chinese, and when they went back to the data a second time to see what other factors may have been influential…guess what? Chinese society EXPECTS the elderly to retain memory into old age—and so they do.

Which brings me to my point, the conditions of some older adults are changing because of social expectations. The old linear life plan where education is for the young, work is for the middle aged, and leisure is for the old, is giving way to new plans.

Baby boomers (and some of their parents) are living cyclic life plans of alternating patterns of education, work, and leisure, which are full time activities for periods throughout life.

Further, the more likely scenario is a new life plan that is blended where work, education, and leisure are concurrent all throughout life–maybe even in the same week!

These new life plans for the 21st century favor aging-in-place and staying plugged into the vibrant nature of community with mixed generation environments. In addition, older adults overwhelming prefers staying where they have situated their lives for years.

The model for success in later life according to author Marc Freedman in Prime Time written back in 1999, was the emergence of a mass leisure class and Sun City-like retirement. For some, age-segregated and leisure-oriented living is fine, for others it’s outdated.

What’s good is society’s expectations are changing for Mr. Senior Citizen and his wife…and today we have more choices.


Just another day in Paradise: SunCity

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