Why Build Communities for All Ages?

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Demographic shifts in America are having a profound effect on communities and the nature of age relations. The “graying of America” is narrowing the gap between the percentage of older adults and children/youth in the total U.S. population. By 2030 these groups will be roughly the same in size; each will comprise about 22% of the population.

In addition, racial and ethnic diversity is continuing to increase. The percentage of African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and Asian American youth will constitute the majority of young people by 2030 while over 70% of the older adult population will be White. Many of us are uncertain how to take advantage of the opportunities being offered by this more robustly multi-generational and multi-cultural society.

How can we use these major demographic changes as an opportunity to think and act differently for the common good? How can we strengthen the social compact that reflects our commitment to each other? While there are many opportunities, there are also challenges.

Age-segregated institutions, funding streams, and service delivery systems create silos that limit our ability to work together and encourage competition for scarce resources. Perceptions of older adults and youth as problems prevent us from mobilizing these groups as valuable resources who can support each other and contribute to their communities. And stress on families is increasing as members of different ages try to support each other in these tough economic times. New policies and practices are needed that intentionally foster
a sense of generational interdependence, promote lifelong contribution, and bring resources together to improve the quality of life for community members of ALL ages.

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