Monday, May 23, 2005

A glimpse of our future?

Washington Post:
Study Says Lakeland, Fla., Looks Just Like the U.S. of 2025
The Lakeland area, from Lakeland proper to Winter Haven 15 miles away, population about half a million -- is a demographic dead ringer for the United States of 2025, according to research by Wake Forest University economists. While other economists strain to project current economic trends into the baby boomers' retirement years, the Wake Forest team devised a novel approach: Find the future today.

What they found was Lakeland, with its Wi-Fi Internet connections and well-tended downtown, and an economy that diverges from the national average in interesting ways. Sure, sales of furniture, garden equipment and cars are booming here as they are in many other places. But grocery stores, restaurants and bars, clothing stores and department stores are pulling in far less of the consumers' dollars than in cities with more representative age demographics.

Health care and golf are in; fast food and musical instruments are out. And forget about doughnuts.

"It is unlikely that the future will look much different than Lakeland," said Sherry L. Jarrell, Garst Reese and Gary L. Shoesmith of Wake Forest's Babcock Graduate School of Management.

By 2025, boomers born in 1955 will be 70. Just less than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be younger than 15, slightly less than today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the middle of the age spectrum will hollow out, while the number of those 65 and older will swell from 12.4 percent of the population to 18.2 percent.
I'm not sure how much we should generalize from this study. Aging boomers might differ from their parents in important ways. Can we be sure that they will trade in their musical instruments for golf clubs?

Those prognosticators would also do well to consult Night Nurse Kelly, whose patients are elderly. Her reports suggest another aspect of Gray America that can only become more prevalent in the future:
Neurology floor. Elderly people. Dementia.

Here are some of the places my confused patients wanted to go tonight:
To the Army National Guard building to get signed up (90 year old man)
Upstairs to turn off the lights
Under the bed to get the glass that broke
That little diner down the street to get some breakfast
"I want to get dressed and go to that place I need to go to."

Actual places I suggested my demented patients go last night:
Back to bed
Back to bed
Well, I think you should go back to bed
Back to bed
(via Respectful Insolence)
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