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Planning Neighbourhoods for Boomerennials: Ideas that Work for Everyone.

June 30, 2016

When it comes to housing and communities, the Boomers and Millennials share many of the same needs and wants. Maybe we can build homes and communities that work for both? 

(This is the final part of a 4 part series, for now at least. We’ve just launched new research with 4000 Boomers and Millennials to explore the similarities between these two demographic groups.) 

Urban planners have been talking for sometime now about how to make our streets more Boomer-friendly.

As we age, mobility issues become a more annoying part of our life, as we progress from walking slowly, to using a cane, and for some of us a walker and even a wheelchair. Our energy levels decline, so that quick sprint down the street to the grocery store becomes a half-day outing.

So, these planners suggest some simple solutions that should become common-place as we work to build inclusive communities. Steep curbs are impossible for wheelchairs and walkers, and are inconvenient for those using a cane, or even just a bit unsteady on their feet. A sloped “ramp style” curve to the curb is much less likely to cause trip-ups or create barriers to moving around the neighbourhood.

Frequent placement of benches and plenty of public seating are good ideas too, so older Boomers can stop and rest, and maybe even have a chat with a friend. Strong safe lighting makes it easier to move around at night. And parks should be liberally scattered everywhere, instead of only one giant park in the middle of the community that only hard-core frisbee players and dog walkers will use.

These are all simple changes that make sense for an aging Boomer population.

But you know who else they make sense for?

Moms, with kids, in strollers. They need a place to sit, curbs that are friendly to prams, and good safe lighting for getting around. Millennials will appreciate pocket-parks as much as the Boomers do, too.

Planning our streetscapes for Boomers will work just as well for Millennials. And my guess is that these rethought streetscapes will work better for everyone else too, Boomerennial or not.

A final thought as we end this four-part series on the surface-level similarities between Boomers and Millennials — the Boomerennials.  I’ve commissioned a new research project to dive deeper into the cross-pollinating impacts these similarities may have as we work to build better homes and cities. Even before that research is done, however, it seems to me that the real story here is that it’s time we reconsider how we build homes and cities for the new realities of higher density and more diversity.

For a very long time now, we’ve done things more-or-less the same way because we’ve always built for vertical clumps of consumers that we refer to as demographic groups. But maybe a better solution is to think laterally, about cross-generational clumps that enjoy the same kinds of things in a home, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or income?

It would mean buildings that feel more like a village.

And a community of these villages-in-a-building?

Well, it seems to me that would be a pretty great place to live.

For everyone.

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