Professor: Elderly segregation may not be so bad

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Stephen Golant, PhD
Stephen Golant, PhD

Many analysts predict that future senior living communities need to focus more on intergenerational living. Stephen Golant, PhD, is not one of them.

A University of Florida professor of gerontology, he recently argued that age-based residential segregation may not actually be such a bad thing.

He notes that when older people live predominantly with others in the same age range, benefits often outweigh the costs. For starters, they tend to enjoy a better social life.

“Over the course of our lives, we typically gravitate to others who are at similar stages in life as ourselves. Consider summer camps, university dormitories, rental buildings geared to millennials or neighborhoods with lots of young families. Yet we seldom hear cries to break up and integrate these age-homogeneous residential enclaves,” he says.

Moreover, when older people reside with others their age, they tend to have more fulfilled and enjoyable lives. They do not feel stigmatized when they practice retirement-oriented lifestyles. In addition, technology is especially on the side of these elders, he claims.

“Because of online social media communications, older people can engage with younger people — as family members, friends, or as mentors — but without having to live next to what they sometimes feel are noisy babies, obnoxious adolescents, indifferent younger adults or insensitive career professionals.

Golant says ageist values and practices are indeed deplorable. But he adds we should not view the residential separation of the old from the young as necessarily harmful and discriminatory. A better way to look at it is as celebrating the preferences of older Americans and nurturing their ability to live happy, dignified, healthy and autonomous lives.

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