Super Cities №174 — Aging Together, Dying Alone

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Women outlast men

“Women live on average six to eight years longer than men do. Eighty percent of women die single,” Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, told TheStreet.

Hart’s Comment

Some of my neighbors have only ever known one home. They were born in an apartment in Brooklyn, and they will die in the same apartment in Brooklyn.

My neighbors add a richness to our community that money cannot buy. They know every intersection and stop sign; they remember long-forgotten stores and store owners; and they are perpetually upset by the new stuff going up. Above all, they dislike the never-ending noise and merciless traffic.

The United States spends a lot of money to make sure my neighbors, and people of their generation, age with a baseline level of dignity. This is a challenging commitment. Between 2014 and 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and over will double to 83 million.

Americans spend money through social programs to offset the costs of aging, but as anyone who has witnessed the process knows, the amount of money, time, and resources necessary to accommodate aging are substantial and increase over time.

The all-in responsibility is never easy and, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond, the choice comes down to “Honor or Abandon.”

The challenge of aging is not an American one. By 2050, China will have almost 500 million people over the age of 60.

As cities get more crowded and better connected, policymakers must understand how this transformation affects those who, by choice or necessity, will not operate the next great internet-connect device.

Someone will have to pay the enormous emotional, societal, and financial bill. Let us hope they do it with empathy.

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