Aging and Sustainability (Indulge the Fantasy)

This article on homes designed for an aging population sparked a few thoughts about the parallels between aging and sustainability. I’m thinking about how each can inform the other. A scenario that a friend sent on to me seems instructive. It shows 4 basic futures related to energy consumption. You can find the initial diagram here, but I’ve recreated it because, well, we all need to do our small part for sustainability.


The energy futures diagram shows 4 basics paths.

1) a technological solution that will allow us to live as we do, and not destroy our planet.

2) We make some sacrifices, but in doing so we are able to keep a relatively comfortable standard of living.

3) We don’t change, and we pay the price.

4) We don’t change and s&!# goes to pieces. Quickly.

So what if we think about how this might map to the future scenarios of aging? There’s no reasonable Techno-fantasy for aging. But should there be? Is there a way to think of aging not just as a thing we need to learn to accept, but as something we could actually love? Do we actually need to age? It quickly becomes the stuff of sci-fi, but why not think about it a bit?

So much of the work that’s being done on these realms deals with the 2nd option. And with good reason. It’s the most logical course of action if we want to see things change. This is about sacrifice and some moderate behavior changes. Pragmatic optimism. It’s good solid thinking, but it doesn’t actually push us to go beyond how we imagine the world. And that’s the main problem.

If we’re not able to imagine utopian fantasies, how will we be able to image dystopic ones? I propose that we spend some more time thinking about the fantasy solutions as well. I say this with a fair amount of hesitation because if we focus only on those kinds of solutions we risk losing everything if we don’t find a solution. And if we do, we risk failing to appreciate the actions that got us here in the first place. (think environmental bailout). However, none of these are reason enough not to think more radically, and fantastically about some of these solutions. So let’s do it.