Listening to Stewart Brand outline the City Planet I find myself, once again, wanting to be down in the streets of these rapidly growing squatter cities - watching, learning, participating as the local people engage in the enterprise and leadership necessary for self-organizing systems to work. Brand reminds us that life is tough in these places, that it's dirty and smelly. But energy and creativity is flowing freely and expanding exponentially in the urban slums of the developing world.
Brand observes current population and urbanization trends, predicting that the 'West' (basically the developed nations of Europe and North America) will soon have shrinking populations and cities full of old people. Meanwhile the developing 'South' (especially Asia and Africa) will host burgeoning cities full of young people.
How will older people expecting comfortable retirement in developed countries get the services they need when the bulk of growth and energy will be in the developing world?
How will urbanization and moving away from traditional support networks (extended family/tribe) affect older people in developing countries? Brand reports that urbanization is defusing the 'population bomb' in a way that surprised everyone. Urban women have far fewer children. So how will nuclear families provide for their elderly? In the squatter cities everyone works who is able, from little children to old people. What will happen as they become more prosperous? Will they want a North American or European type of retirement? Will retirement even be financially plausible in the foreseeable future?
What if retirement communities were productive and contributed significantly to their neighbors, or generated income for residents - and did not simply consume resources?
What kind of aging services will be needed and appropriate in the squatter cities that are growing up outside the formal economies of the developing world? What is already being done? What opportunities exist and how can we get involved?