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Gerontolescence and urban utopias


Young-old: Urban Utopias of an Aging Society is the title of the new book(s) published by Deane Simpson. The book explores the impact of population ageing in the making of urban spaces (territories).

The author’s study on eccentric cases is an inspiring journey. However, it might generate some misunderstandings and ultimately, not provide an accurate perspective with regards to the main challenges posed by population-ageing in cities.


Deane Simpson is an architect based in Copenhagen. He is interested in how the demographic change towards an older population is also changing the spaces around us. His new book documents some eccentric phenomena such as a retirement community in Florida, the Dutch-themed residential community at Huis Ten Bosch in southern Japan, and the RV communities in the USA.

Departing from the works of Bernice Neugarten and Peter Laslett, the author assumes the concept of the Third Age, as a new form of periodization of life which emerged during the post Second World War. The so-called “young-old” group is the main focus of Simpson’s work.

One of the main challenges of this approach is the lack of demographic adherence. Although the case studies represent an interesting phenomenon, they do not represent the bulk of demographic change. They are eccentric examples of the rich world.

Although the proportion of elderly people of the total population is currently substantially higher in developed countries, by 2050, 22% of the total world population will consist of older persons and nearly 80% of them will be living in developing countries.


Even if the author seems to be aware about the limits of his analyses, the debate in Oslo showed how easily the demographic facts can be ignored. For example, it was clear that all participants assumed that Oslo’s population is getting older, which is not true.

Above all, the theme is inspiring. For this blog it opens an important door to “spatial analyses” beyond the ideas of dependence and disability. It is a clever way to challenge the general assumptions (read: prejudices) planners make about old age. Furthermore, it offers the perspective of creation and innovation, instead of a simple adaptation to the existent logic.

(Disclaimer: Age-smart Oslo did not have access to his book yet. This article is based on his lecture at 0047 on December 8th).

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