Monday, May 21, 2007

Niche communities for those who think alike

We are living longer and can have as much as twenty plus years after the currently official retirement age (they are on their way up however). This period of retirement is already know as “active retirement” and it appears that those people, particularly in the Baby Boom generation want to retire with people who believe or have the same interests as themselves.

There are several ways to look at this phenomenon. As a trend, it may only last until the last Baby Boomer retires. However, children and grandchildren visiting their parents and grandparents might accept this as the natural way to live past a certain age. One could say that this is an American trend and so far I have no evidence to say it is true of not. We do know that people like to have friends that are like them. They may be from totally different backgrounds, but share the same values and views on life, they may be from the same cultural/religions background. We see this in immigrants who tend to move to areas where there are people who speak their language and who share a common cultural experience.

Some might say that all this forming of communities of likes is the opposite direction of diversity. It is one thing when older people want to be with their “own kind”, but if everyone did, what kind of world would it be? Would young people ever meet an older person? Would everyone live in their own community only going out for necessities and then returning? It could be positive if the communities were small enough where it was possible to know all or most of the members. Democracy is at its best when everyone can vote on the rules and matters of the group. It could be negative if communities get into arguments with other communities over common services or infrastructure. It could be that these communities become more self- contained with their own power sources and waste water treatment. It could be positive if communities were in contact with one another and even visited one another. Life might be less stressful in a community where the group made many decisions that individual’s make today at the same time individual control might increase because everyone has a say. The whole concept of smaller communities within the larger context could increase the feeling of security which Americans have seemed to have lost. Who will move to these communities when the Baby Boomers are no longer around, will it be their children, who also were a large demographic group?

There are many who feel that our cities are too large. Currently, half the world’s people live in cities more than ever before. We all are familiar with the negative side of cities, the isolation, not knowing your neighbors, having trouble meeting like minded people, crime, pollution, traffic. Will we be tired enough of all these irritations and inconveniences to move into smaller communities? Of course people who moved from small towns were often looking for anonymity, finding like minded people a little excitement and often a job. Electronic technologies mean that jobs can be performed anywhere. A little community out in the countryside might be just the thing!