Dr Sandra Rosenbloom: What's Bigger Than The Coming Age Wave? Then Why Are We Ignoring It?

Thursday 27th November 2014
Lecture Room B, Boyd Orr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Dr Sandra Rosenbloom, Professor of Planning at The University of Texas at Austin, will speak at this joint event with the Urban Studies Seminar Series.

Dr Rosenbloom is also Editor-in-Chief at the Journal of the American Planning Association and Director, Innovation in Infrastructure, The Urban Institute.


Most industrial countries are rapidly aging; their populations are turning “up-side-down”—that is, they will have more people over 50 than under 20.  Also called a “silver tsunami” the changing demographics of the population in countries from the United States to the United Kingdom, Sweden to Spain will affect almost all aspects of society. The so-called dependency ratio will change drastically—there will be a smaller number of younger working people who pay the taxes that finance services for the aged, as well as fewer children and grandchildren to provide family support to older relatives.

Older people, whatever their income or assets, generally spend less than they did when younger; when they do spend they buy services more than goods, health care more than recreation. These changing market demands will alter the entire base of the economy. And unlike previous generations, older people are far less likely to move on retirement; increasingly they age in place in communities not suited to their needs, and over time, to their increasing fragility and disability. Moreover today in many countries 1 out of 4 or 5 drivers is over 65, 1 out of 20 are over 80.

Dr. Rosenbloom will outline the many common socio-demographic trends facing industrial countries and identify the policy concerns that should engage those planning the future of our cities and our economies.  Only some of these concerns are related to social justice issues; while some older people lack resources, particularly older single women and those from BME communities, many older people have sufficient resources—if their homes, neighborhoods, commercial activities, social and recreational services, and health care opportunities were responsive to their needs. No single person, no matter how wealthy, can change the physical and emotional barriers that many cities pose to healthy and productive aging. Unless we act now, our societies may deprive themselves of the substantial contributions that healthy older people can make as volunteers, part-time workers, grandparents, mentors, and caretakers for other older people.