Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

A Sustainable Alternative to Shady Acres?

3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.

By Julien Gervreau

Here are two things that scare me:

  1. Old people driving: Last month I found myself behind two octogenarians who were quite literally driving down the sidewalk in their Crown Vic at about 15 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone.  My immediate concern for my well being was quickly supplanted by the realization that the safest place for the children of tomorrow to play may actually be in the street!

  1. My mom moving in with me when she retires: There has been a running joke in my family that when my mother reaches retirement age, Wall Street be damned.  My wife and I had better have a granny unit available in the back yard that she can occupy instead. She’s quite convincing in her argument that this shared living situation will provide the ancillary benefit of an additional set of hands to help with raising the kids…but I digress.

The combination of these two fears has prompted this post and an inquiry into what society’s options are for sustainably supporting the Baby Boomer generation as its population transitions into the golden years.

The 2010 Census predicts that the dependency ratio, or the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages, is projected to increase from 22 in 2010 to 35 in 2030. That’s a 37% increase in the next 19 years! Compounded with this issue is the fact that half of Americans, and roughly seven in 10 current seniors, live in the suburbs, where they are heavily reliant upon their vehicles to get around. Let’s not forget that this is a generation that grew up in multiple vehicle households and has always enjoyed unrestricted access to the open road, so the likelihood of our parents willingly giving up their cars without a viable alternative is slim to none. And no, the irregularly scheduled local community senior citizen transit bus is not a viable option. Needless to say, there’s increasing urgency to identify a dignified solution that helps our parents, and all of us by extension, safely enjoy their retirement.

This rapidly increasing number of upwardly mobile new retirees and “empty nesters,” (how about a new term for this demographic?) whose children have recently left home, presents a unique opportunity to unlock latent demand for a viable option to the traditional “Shady Acres” retirement community. A place where, rather than jumping on an ice flow way out in suburbia and disappearing into the sunset, today’s Baby Boomers can become engaged in a vibrant living community. A community that provides the opportunity for them to revisit the lifestyles they put on hold to raise families and pay into the pension funds that have been plundered by unscrupulous corporate executives, during a period in their lives when they again have more free time to devote to things about which they are truly passionate.

One thing I know for sure is that the generation that brought us, Hippies, the Civil Rights movement, large-scale resistance to a war with no clear exit strategy, Woodstock, the Summer of Love, and the first pro-environment movement, will not go down without a fight. There is an engrained hankering for social and environmental justice among Baby Boomers, and anyone who can figure out how to incorporate this into their daily lives as they age stands to make, dare I say, a killing. Let’s just make sure we can provide them with enough incentive to stay off the road!

Here’s one way of looking at this complex issue. Any other ideas?


Julien Gervreau is an MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School where he is focusing on water conservation and reuse and renewable energy. He is a co-founder of the Presidio Water Club and a self-proclaimed momma's boy. Follow him on Twitter @omatters.

More stories from Leadership & Transparency