The Future of Aging

Russian River and Ocean 12x4 image: Annette Heacox
Russian River and Ocean 12×4
image: Annette Heacox

“The young and even the middle-aged can’t truly appreciate what it is to be old.” (-) “The sheer aloneness and inescapability of it. A different shore. You have gone somewhere and you aren’t coming back.” 

Why do we run away from aging in our current society? Aging is an unavoidable reality. Regardless of what we do to our bodies and minds, we age. But can racing against aging become embracing our golden years?

In this admittedly non-academic post, I share hopes and fears and also my research on the topic of aging. A few years ago, I wrote a questionnaire targeting the elderly population. Aging should concern us all, and we urgently need new attitudes and answers.

I want to challenge that vision of running away from aging. I’ll brainstorm some answers and propose new ideas partially based on the questionnaire I addressed to seniors. We are tomorrow’s elderly; there is always hope.

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Spaces Every Child Should Experience

Washington Monument – 2008 General Design Honor Award Winner image: Olin Partnership
Washington Monument – 2008 General Design Honor Award Winner
image: Olin Partnership

Favorite childhood memories are often associated with a special place, whether a beloved neighborhood park, a family vacation to somewhere unforgettable, or your own backyard. When we asked PPN members about what spaces every child should experience, the responses we received reflected the outsize impact that outdoor settings of all scales—from playing in the woods to visiting the Grand Canyon—can have on a child.

Here are a few specific locations that were mentioned:

  • Central Park, New York City
  • City Museum, St. Louis
  • Disneyland
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona
  • Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
  • The National Mall, Washington, D.C.
  • Yosemite Valley, California

But above all, the central theme that arose from members’ responses was that children should experience natural spaces. Here are a few suggestions and comments that focus not on particular destinations, but on kinds of experiences and places that all children should have access to and be able to enjoy.

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Allegheny County’s Monitored Green Roof

Foreground: intensive green roof and microcosm trials image: John K. Buck, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.
Foreground: intensive green roof and microcosm trials
image: John K. Buck, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.

To serve as an educational model demonstrating the benefits of green roofs and the technology imbedded in green roofs, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania decided to install a green roof exhibiting four types of green roof technologies:

  1. Intensive – 8-12 inches of lightweight engineered growing medium with shrubs and plants requiring that rooting depth.
  2. Semi-intensive – 6 inches of lightweight engineered growing medium with the ability to grow plants and shrubs with that depth.
  3. Roll out mat – a pre-grown sedum mat set on 4 inches of lightweight engineered growing medium, providing instant coverage.
  4. Tray system – pre-grown sedum established in lightweight engineered growing medium trays.

By exhibiting these four green roof technologies, it is noted that the substantial additional weight of the intensive and semi-intensive systems requires close examination of the structural integrity of a roof, whereas the mat and tray systems allow green roof application on roofs with less significant weight restrictions. In addition to the visual display, monitoring systems were installed to prove the benefits of green roofs. The performance of this green roof is amazing and noteworthy to share in the scheme of green technology.

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The Emerging Role of Millennials

image: Ryan Deane
image: Ryan Deane

If your firm looks anything like mine it won’t be hard for you to paint this picture for yourself. A bustling open-office floor plan with large semi-private work stations for senior associates and principals along the windowed perimeter (usually vacant). Cookie cutter cubicles with low walls filled with a production army of 20-30 year olds, rocking headphones while heating up their keyboards, and an inner core of collaboration spaces filled with a mix of employees laboring over the latest design ideas – it won’t be long before these headphones (and their millennial owners) move towards those window seats.

Millennials Can “Just Play”

Back in the 80’s while many of our bosses were likely out at a Journey concert, we started training. Okay okay, at the time we didn’t know it was training, but opening an Atari, Nintendo, or Sega on your birthday was like getting your first PC. Then in the 90’s we sat down for hours on end to the ‘cutting edge’ graphics of “SimCity 2000,” with only a keyboard and mouse to sculpt the landscape before planning a city… On second thought, it really was training! Between hours of playing “Oregon Trail” we wrote our first email from our 4th grade classroom on an Apple IIe. We typed our first book reports and inserted clip art in middle school, and by the time college rolled around we had early versions of AutoCAD, Photoshop, and GIS as part of our daily vocabulary.

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