By 2034 older adults will outnumber children in the United States, a scenario unlike any prior period in American history. Yet, most in our society do not live in circumstances that allow for routine and sustained connections between young and old. And children and older adults are often underrepresented in planning and community engagement processes.
PAS Report 603, Intergenerational Community Planning, explores how focusing on the youngest and the oldest members of our communities can help planners identify their needs and vulnerabilities — as well as their assets and strengths — to find synergies and solutions that benefit both. An intergenerational approach to planning enables planners to develop plans, programs, policies, places, partnerships, processes, and values that promote interaction of young and old to the mutual benefit of both groups — and the community as a whole.
The report offers guidance in implementing the elements of an intergenerational community planning process, including visioning, public engagement, and data collection and analysis. It describes a range of intergenerational strategies and solutions that encompasses programs, public spaces and facilities, and human services. And it points planners to intergenerational building blocks of children/youth- and older adult-focused initiatives for collaboration and coalition building.
Children and youth, as well as older adults, are the proverbial canaries in the coal mines of our societies. By focusing on engaging these two populations, as well as the generations in the middle, and crafting policies and plans that address their needs and bring them together, planners can make sure their communities are good places to grow up and grow old.
The population of the United States is aging. And while the percentage of children in the population is declining, the number of children is substantial and will remain so well into the future. By 2060, older adults and children together are projected to comprise more than 43 percent of the population, as compared with 38 percent in 2016. It is a scenario of old and young unlike any prior period in American history.
There is intrinsic value in the generations connecting. Yet, most in our society do not live and function in circumstances that allow for routine and sustained connections between young and old. Children attend age-segregated schools, adults work in environments without children and older adults, and many older people live in age-segregated housing. This age segregation of spaces allows age-based stereotypes to flourish, thereby making it more difficult for older adults and younger people to initiate or maintain relationships with each other and for many younger people to understand the aging process more fully.