Everyone is getting older. This is good.

John Sunart
Mar 18, 2015 · 6 min read
How do we deal with entwined social, technological and personal urban futures

The population is going to have more life experience than ever before. This can be a good thing. So let’s treat it like that.

It’s time to shift paradigms from one in which old people are a drag, a waste of decaying space who take up houses young couples could be being valuable in, to one in which we recognise and encourage these bastions of wisdom as an opportunity to reform our broken communities and shape the future of our cities.

No matter what services you provide, if someone can’t get to it, it may as well not exist.

I have talked about the Highlands and Islands as being a distributed city; a place with all the resources and population of a city but with the added benefit of 27,000 square kilometres of beautifully landscaped parkland. One of the key issues in this distributed city is how folk can get from A to B, and apparently it doesn’t really matter how far A is from B. As a society we haven’t sussed out this issue. It leads me to wonder how we could compare the travel needs, and travel purpose (you’d be surprised, Bernadette told us, by the number of people who use the bus as a social space) of an extremely rural population and an extremely urban one. Could we learn something which could lead to “re-ruralisation” of local communities combined with “urban” methods of access to centralised resources? — a half formed thought, but I would be interested in exploring.

We all have wheels, maybe not a car or a bus, but a bike, a scooter, or a wheelchair.

With all ages of people taking to less car-centric forms of transport, how can we design cities around providing safe and pleasant travel experiences for everyone. Rachel mentioned the use of shared transport routes, where Cars, bikes and pedestrians shared a single carriage way, with no expectations of priority, forcing everyone to be more considerate in their use of the space. And once again brought the future in to play, considering what technology might be in place to assist an ever growing group of technologically able older people.

Finding a language to express longevity will be one of the biggest challenges of the next 50 years

Finally the audience were challenged to provide their vision of what aging in a city will look like in the future. The main theme was the reclaiming of city centres as spaces for the whole population, not just the young, the development of planned intergenerational living and the necessity of the rebuilding of social structures.

If you keep society convinced older people are the problem then society will let other things slide.

In closing remarks much of the same was reiterated with two wonderful final images being drawn. The first highlighted that as the climate becomes more violent, and the older are made more vulnerable by society we are causing a collision course for future generations to deal with. The second suggested that we’re planning for strong, resilient cities at 25, 50 and 65 year horizons, we need to aid people today to plan for strong, resilient lives over the same horizons. That is easier said than done.


Thoughts, case studies, and design tools built as I work to embed codesign and Service Design into agencies.

John Sunart

Written by

Facilitator and designer with intent, writing from Brighton, England. Previously a Flitcroft


Thoughts, case studies, and design tools built as I work to embed codesign and Service Design into agencies.