Coughlin is founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab and the author of The Longevity Economy.
There are so many older adults in Florida that they’ve created their own city. The Villages, located smack in the center of the state, has a population of 157,000 people. By design and by fiat, virtually all of its residents are over the age of 55. The Villages has its own culture, its own norms, its own lifestyle. The primary mode of transportation is the golf cart. Tens of thousands of the little white vehicles crisscross the landscape. Accordingly, the community’s slogan is “Free golf for life!” (Thirty-six golf courses make up the heart of the Villages.) It is the sort of arrangement one looks at and says, “Only in Florida.”
The state does earn its reputation: 20% of its population is over the age of 65, and over 40% is over 50. But Florida is not as unique as you might think. One of America’s numerous (and sometimes infamous) Baby Boomers turns 65 every eight seconds. In about a decade, the nation’s age demographics will line up with that of the Sunshine State. We will become a nation of Floridas.
Making such a society livable will require far more than golf carts. It will demand a great deal from all of us — entrepreneurs, employers, policymakers and, yes, as individuals. In a world in which nearly half the population is over the age of 50, we will have to start thinking of older people differently, more expansively.