After the Villages

A conversation about aging, architecture, and active-adult fantasies.

With Deane Simpson & Christian González-Rivera 7:00 p.m. 264 Canal Street, New York, New York $7 suggested donation, free for members

How and where will we live as we age, given that we are aging like no other humans have before us? In the United States, the elderly population has grown from three million in 1900 to forty million today; it is projected to double by 2050. Globally, the growth of the elderly population far exceeds that of the population as a whole, auguring an unprecedented social and demographic transformation. As societies grow older and individuals negotiate novel conceptions and experiences of aging, any common understanding of what it means to age is increasingly elusive. From nootropics to canned oxygen to the reduction in the fatality rates from infectious disease, medical and technological advances in life extension and biomechanics are expanding the mental and physical capacities of older people who can afford them; meanwhile, myriad architectural spaces are being built for the aging population, with designs depending as much on physical necessity as aspirational identification and the professional marketing of desires and lifestyles by real estate developers.

For After the Villages, the architect and professor Deane Simpson will draw on his book Young-Old: Urban Utopias of an Aging Society (2015) to speak about the implications of aging for the built environment, and emancipatory and escapist visions of urbanity. Simpson will discuss conditions in various metropolises as well as contemporary retirement communities that serve to shape elderly individuals and collectivities. To Simpson, developments like The Villages—a massive development marketed as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown”—fulfill a commercial vision of “active-adulthood” while creating a four-fold dystopia of age-segregation, securitization, privatization, and denial of the final phase of life. Simpson will speak about alternative spatial frameworks for aging populations and address challenges inherent in the the orthodoxy of “aging in place.” This discussion is linked to notions of demographic balance—the ideal of the intergenerational city or neighborhood—and the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.

Simpson will ask how recent debates about the merits of aging in place might change how we think about and inhabit buildings, neighborhoods, and cities. More generally, he’ll speak about the relationship between the realities and representations of aging as they pertain to the social realms in which we make sense of mortality and the economic realms in which we express our desires. He’ll be joined in conversation by Christian González-Rivera, senior researcher at the Center for an Urban Future and author of “The New Face of New York’s Seniors.”

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors at 6:30 p.m. and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.

Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.

  • Deane Simpson is an architect, urbanist, and professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. He is a former unit master at the Architectural Association, London, professor at BAS Bergen, associate at Diller + Scofidio, New York, and faculty member at the ETH Zürich. His research addresses contemporary urban and architectural phenomena such as the urban implications of demographic transformation, social and environmental sustainability challenges within urban and regional settings, the securitization of the public space, and the spatial conditions that align with the transformation of Scandinavian welfare systems. He is the author of Young-Old: Urban Utopias of an Aging Society (Lars Müller, 2015), and coeditor of The City Between Freedom and Security (Birkhäuser, 2017) and the forthcoming Atlas of the Copenhagens (Ruby Press, 2018).
  • Christian González-Rivera is senior researcher at the Center for an Urban Future and author of “The New Face of New York’s Seniors.”