The future of housing looks nothing like today’s

When Lisa Cini and her husband, kids, and rescue dog moved in with her parents and grandmother a few years ago, the Ohio-based architect pored over the design of her 94-year-old grandma’s bedroom “apartment.” An Alzheimer’s diagnosis made security and mobility important, but her ideas went beyond extra locks and grab-bars; she felt it was crucial that she have her own living room within the family home.

“It’s interesting, when we’re younger and full of life, when we’re just doing life so hard, we have to find time to sleep. But when we get old, when we’re slowing down so much, we have to work to find ways to do more life and less sleep,” Cini recalls in her book about living with four generations under one roof. Designing a separate living room gave her grandma a space to hang out, engage, and entertain visitors outside of her bedroom, a subtle but important distinction. “Her living room really helps her keep living life,” Cini observes.

Cini’s situation–four generations under one roof–was an unusual one, compared to the way most Americans have lived over the past century, when socioeconomic forces have made it normal for Americans to live as nuclear families, in contrast to the last few thousand years of human history.

But for complex reasons that still puzzle researchers, multigenerational households are now on the rise once more. As many as 41% of Americans buying a home are considering accommodating an elderly parent or an adult child, according to a survey conducted by John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Living with your parents (or your adult children) has plenty of potential benefits–everyone tends to save money, it can potentially benefit health outcomes, and you get to spend more time together.

The emphasis on physical and financial independence at every stage of adulthood has high incurred costs, though. The first is the massive accumulation of capital, from money to land to natural resources to labor, necessary to supply the cars, airports, fuel, roads, land, and housing for a country of 327 million people who want to live conspicuously apart.

The second is social isolation. The idea that it’s normal for each nuclear family to own a single-family home, connected to other people only by cars, is actually “radical,” as architect and cohousing development consultant Katie McCamant puts it. “It’s held up this great dream that not only Americans should strive so hard for, but the whole rest of the world looks to as a model now,” she says. “There’s been so much emphasis on independence and on privacy that we really designed community right out of our lives without knowing it.”

In short, for complex economic, social, and cultural reasons, what constitutes “normal” housing for seniors in America is changing. Culture may also play a role. “I think there’s a tighter connection just generationally between young adults and their parents,” says Chris Porter, an analyst at John Burns Real Estate Consulting who tracks housing trends. That closeness is influencing the senior housing market, as well as the way senior-focused housing is marketed. “We’re seeing the golf course as less of an amenity these days for senior housing,” says Porter, who has worked with several developers to redevelop golf courses as housing. “The real amenity for seniors is being near their kids and grandkids. I think that comes back to that connection between the boomers and their kids.”

Cini’s grandmother passed last year, and looking back, she has a few things she would do differently. Some have to do with small quality-of-life details: She wishes she would have added heated flooring to her grandma’s bathroom and a light under every stair. Others underline the challenges of designing for four generations with different expectations about technology. Even though she and her husband could control their Philips Hue lights from their phones, her dad missed the light switch. “It’s still about choice. I think we forget that that should be an option,” she says.

According to research by the AARP, almost 90% of seniors want to remain in their own homes as they age, also known as aging in place. That can be complex. For a multitude of reasons, living with your adult children, if you have them, isn’t always an option. Caregivers are increasingly hard to come by, and not all homes are designed for aging bodies.

There are other, subtle problems that aging in place can create, as the architect Katie McCamant points out. “What I hear a lot is when people first retire, they often say, ‘I’ve never been busier. I’m involved in all these clubs and these groups and doing this and that and volunteering there,’” she says. But all that activity usually depends entirely on the ability to drive. Take that away, and aging in place gets more complex. “You find out that my connection to all these things I’m so busy with is my car. And if I can’t drive, I’m totally cut off.”

Read the complete article on Fast Company here.

Old, Online, And Fed On Lies: How An Aging Population Will Reshape The Internet

People 65 and older will soon make up the largest single age group in the United States, and will remain that way for decades to come, according to the US Census. This massive demographic shift is occurring when this age group is moving online and onto Facebook in droves, deeply struggling with digital literacy, and being targeted by a wide range of online bad actors who try to feed them fake news, infect their devices with malware, and steal their money in scams. Yet older people are largely being left out of what has become something of a golden age for digital literacy efforts.

Since the 2016 election, funding for digital literacy programs has skyrocketed. Apple just announced a major donation to the News Literacy Project and two related initiatives, and Facebook partners with similar organizations. But they primarily focus on younger demographics, even as the next presidential election grows closer.

This means the very people who struggle the most with digital information and technology risk being left to fend for themselves in an environment where they’re being targeted and exploited precisely because of their vulnerabilities.

Older people are also more likely to vote and to be politically active in other ways, such as making political contributions. They are wealthier and therefore wield tremendous economic power and all of the influence that comes with it. With more and more older people going online, and future 65-plus generations already there, the online behavior of older people, as well as their rising power, is incredibly important — yet often ignored.

Four recent studies found that older Americans are more likely to consume and share false online news than those in other age groups, even when controlling for factors such as partisanship. Other research has found that older Americans have a poor or inaccurate grasp of how algorithms play a role in selecting what information is shown to them on social media, are worse than younger people at differentiating between reported news and opinion, and are less likely to register the brand of a news site they consume information from.

“With recent evidence that older adults are much more likely to disseminate fake news compared with their younger counterparts, coupled with the projected growth for this population segment in the decades to come, it is crucial to advance our understanding of the factors affecting the ways in which older adults engage with these platforms and how in turn these platforms are affecting how they function in society,” they wrote in a recent article for Scientific American.

Research published in January found that “On average, users over 65 [on Facebook] shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group.” Similar findings have come from studies looking at the spread of false information on Twitter and at web browsing in general around the 2016 election.

“People over 60 or 65 seem to be especially prone to consuming and sharing fake news and online misinformation more generally,” Brendan Nyhan, a political science professor at the University of Michigan and a coauthor of one of the studies, told BuzzFeed News.

Read the complete article on BuzzFeed News here.

Older People Are Worse at Telling Fact From Opinion

Americans over 50 are worse than younger people at telling facts from opinions, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.

Given 10 statements, five each of fact and opinion, younger Americans correctly identified both the facts and the opinions at higher rates than older Americans did. Forty-four percent of younger people identified all five opinions as opinions, while only 26 percent of older people did. And 18-to-29-year-olds performed more than twice as well as the 65+ set. Of the latter group, only 17 percent classified all five facts as factual statements.

The research tacks against the idea that younger people who are extremely online (or “digitally savvy,” in Pew’s terms) might be more exposed and/or more susceptible to misinformation. But the real correlation with poor performance is exposure to television news, which has fallen off among young people but remains very high among older people. This shouldn’t be surprising if we consider the evolution of American media over the past 60 years. Someone born in 1958, now 60, witnessed two revolutions in media before the internet: talk radio and 24-hour cable news. Both blended facts and opinions in new and unprecedented ways, and they matured with the cohort of Americans who are now over the age of 50.

The internet, of course, became like the previous iterations of the media, but more so. While the bulk of coverage is close to the political center, the far-right media grew to serve ever-larger numbers of older Americans, mostly with the same undifferentiated mix of fact and opinion that talk radio pioneered. “Our own study of over 1.25 million stories published online between April 1, 2015 and Election Day [2016] shows that a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system,” wrote a team of Harvard scholars, “using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world.”

In short, for decades now, older people, especially conservatives, have experienced an erosion of the line between fact and opinion in every media form. The only surprising thing about the new research’s results is that every group’s performance was not worse.

Read the complete article on The Atlantic here.

A bed near the window

A bed by a window

A bed by a window

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not an older person should be put in an old age home?”

“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to
the person to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger

than the spoon or the teacup.”


“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”