Research shows that by 2030, Americans aged 65 and older are projected to outnumber children 18 and younger for the first time in US history. The US Census Bureau explains that with this shift, population growth will slow and the median age will rise as baby boomers – who make up a significant portion of the US population – age into older adulthood.
This leads to a whole new set of considerations for quality of life. Currently, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and this number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050. Deaths from Alzheimer’s – which is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States – have risen by 145% between 2000 and 2017, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
In response, experimental new neighborhoods are being developed to accommodate an aging population.
In August 2018, a first-of-its-kind ‘imitation town’ opened in the suburbs of San Diego, with a second location set to open outside Baltimore later in 2019. The spaces, which recreate life in the 1950s, leverage ‘reminiscence therapy’ to encourage Alzheimer patients to recall and discuss their life experiences. Studies have shown that reminiscence therapy, which uses visual, audio and environmental cues to evoke memories and stimulate conversation, has positive effects on mood, cognition and communication levels among dementia patients. “The town was built to trigger memories,” explained Scott Tarde, CEO of the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center, which developed and operates the town.