The holiday season is now long behind us and it may be a while before many of us get into dinner table arguments with relatives we rarely see, and whose ideas, opinions and lifestyle seem unfamiliar at best, and retrograde at worst.
An absence of multigenerational interaction may seem like a blessing to some, but it has those in city planning concerned. Just as our neighbourhoods have traditionally been segregated by race, ethnicity, income and culture, today they're also increasingly split by age.
All across North America, there is a geography emerging of younger and older cities, with younger and older neighbourhoods. Cities with larger shares of young adults, tend to be better off economically and feature natural amenities, arts and cultural scenes, nightlife and urban cores defined by condo development.
To attract itinerant young people, planners and developers are increasingly creating spaces custom-made to suit. It's driving a new wedge between us.
Our gut reaction is to think of this phenomenon as gentrification. But gentrification only happens when more affluent residents replace less affluent ones. That's not exactly happening with the generational split in our cities as downtowns in cities like Toronto and New York have undergone "youthification." This means an increasing spatial segregation of young adults from the rest of the population. And here's where the conflict at the holiday dinner table spills into the streets.
The potential for conflict intensifies if someone is, or perceives it to be, systematically disadvantaged. The research on Millennials provides evidence that young adults today do indeed have lower incomes, higher debt loads, and face higher housing affordability challenges than their counterparts did 30 or 40 years ago. Young people are increasingly feeling disadvantaged, fuelling the potential for conflict among generations.
The image that is now often portrayed is one of wealthy Baby Boomers, stuck in traffic, on their way to their suburban single-family homes. The Millennials are trying not to get hit by cars as they walk, bike or take transit to work from their small downtown condo, that is if they even have a condo, or even a job. Millennials blame Boomers for taking apart the system that allowed them to excel, while Boomers argue Millennials are just not working hard enough.
While some of the hardships are certainly real, the depiction of these issues as one generation's "fault" is mostly just unhelpful stereotyping. Hardship aside, Millennials are seeing historically low interest rates, higher educational attainment, and in some instances are, or will be, on the receiving end of a transfer of home equity from their aging Boomer parents.
But like racism, sexism and classism, we should probably start adding generationalism to our list of distressing prejudices. Similar to ageism, generationalism discriminates against someone based on age or generation.
Millennials are lazy and entitled, or all Baby Boomers are wealthy -- these kinds of stereotypes mask individual differences. It might result in Millennials not getting jobs simply because they are young, Millennials not receiving housing assistance because we think they are too entitled, or it might mean less social assistance targeted at Boomers because we assume all of them area wealthy.
We can generalize but not if it results in prejudice and inequalities. The problem is that the new inner city spaces we've created arguably provide fewer opportunities to see for ourselves the challenges other generations face as young and old live in different parts of the city. Young neighborhoods in particular are remaining seemingly "forever young" as people move out when they age, and new young people move in.
A first step that planners, city-builders and politicians can take is to consider how we can increase multigenerational contact in our cities. Integrating daycare spaces into senior homes, senior's residences near university campuses, or planning for different housing types, and owned and rental housing in the same neighbourhood are ways to start addressing this issue.
Or we can plan public spaces that aim to bring together people of all ages. For instance, why not turn some green spaces on university campuses into skateboard parks, playgrounds, lawn bowling, trendy cafés with Wi-Fi access, basketball courts, and walking trails within view from benches and picnic areas so that they become used by a broader segment of the population?
Just like planners have advocated for the benefits of greater social mix in terms of income, social class, race and ethnicity, there is a need to think about how we can make our neighborhoods more diverse along the generational dimension.
To find out more about our research on these issues, or to contribute to our research by completing a survey, visit our website.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Many people think that retiring on your career means an end to all that planning, goal-making and strategic thinking that dominates the workplace, but nothing could be further from the truth. Successful retirees are the ones who write down goals — both short and long-term — and make plans to achieve them. Whether you’re more interested in financial goals, travel goals, property goals or health goals, just make sure you’re aiming towards something. Otherwise you may end up feeling lost.
Retirement can feel like an ending, as if it’s the last major step you’ll take in your life, but with life expectancy constantly on the rise, it’s really more of a fresh start for most retirees. Here’s the tricky part: if you want to enjoy this new beginning to the fullest, you need to set yourself up to do so. This means not only looking after your finances by planning for many years of living off retirement income (more years than you think, according to the Washington Post), it also means looking after your body with proper diet and exercise so you have the strength and the energy to take on all these new adventures. It’s never too early to focus on your health — you’ll be so thankful for it later.
You may not be pulling nine-to-fives at the office anymore, but that doesn’t mean your life as an accountant/teacher/doctor/whatever needs to come to a close. You have an incredible wealth of experience under your belt so put it to good use! Retirement is the time when you can really use your skills in the way that you want — for instance, you could become a mentor to a young student or professional, you could volunteer at a school or you could join a board. Rather leave your job in the past? No problem — you still have options. Take classes to pursue that hobby or interest you’ve always wished you had taken up, or look into low-stress part-time jobs for retirees in your area. Working even a few hours a week will help you build a new community and give you a bit of direction — not to mention a bit of welcomed pocket change.
Although you’re already preparing for some of the massive changes retirement will bring to your life, you may be surprised by some of the smaller ways it will change. For instance, according to RetireHappy.ca, many retirees are disappointed to find that despite rock solid relationships with their co-workers during their working life, many friendships drop off after retirement. Not working can be lonely, and that’s why it’s important to make an effort to maintain these relationships once you’re no longer clocking in at the office. Set up a regular lunch date or organize a non-office social group such as a book club to maintain your ties with colleagues. It’s also a good idea to go out of your way to meet other retirees and join groups – it’s important to establish a community of folks that share your interests. As retirement expert Paul Merriman told the Globe and Mail, “the quality of your life is shaped by the quality of the people in your life.”
From the outside, it seems like enjoying retirement should be a given, but unfortunately, many retirees spend far too much time worrying about what they’ll do and how they’ll support themselves. Just stop! While it’s important to make smart financial decisions when it comes to retirement, this time in your life is about more than facts and figures. Make sure you’re taking time every day to smell the roses, appreciate some down time, take part in an activity you enjoy, and spend time with a cherished friend or loved one. This article from Forbes has some great tips on focusing on what’s important.
Follow Markus Moos on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Markus_Moos