Matthias Hollwich: 8 Rules To Age Better
In the lead-up to our PSFK 2017 conference, we look back at key speakers from past years. Architect encourages audience to embrace aging as pioneering life's new adventure
Architect and designer Matthias Hollwich is reframing the conversation around getting older in his new book, New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever. As one of the co-founders of architecture studio, Hollwich-Kushner, Hollwich uses design to make everyday environments more livable. During his talk at our PSFK 2016 conference in New York City, Hollwich encouraged the audience to start a revolution against how we look at aging.
Why is Hollwich, a man in his late 30s, worrying about aging? “Old people are you and me a few years from now,” he explains, “What we’re doing to old people is we’re segregating them, and we all know segregation is wrong.” During his talk, Hollwich calls out many western conventions around aging and urges people to reject the standard practices and think about aging in a new way. “Retirement communities,” he quips, “Sounds great, but these are entertainment establishments where we put all the old people to play bingo for 10, 20, 40 years.”
In both his book and his talk, Hollwich encourages people to reframe thinking about aging from a reluctant reality of life, to a pioneering expedition into the unknown. He offers a few simple suggestions to make aging less daunting:
1: Be Social. Older people often move three times in the last three years of their life. With each move, people are taken out of their social networks and lose friends. Instead of moving alone, Hollwich asks people to create a social network that moves with them.
2: Never Retire. “Retirement,” says Hollwich, “is the worst invention our society has ever created.” As people get older, they have an amazing amount of knowledge and a robust professional network which is conducive to starting new businesses. “If you look forward to retirement,” he says, “you should quit your jobs now and find something you want to do for the rest of your life.”
3: Stay Fit. As an architect, Hollwich thinks about how to solve problems with design. Exercise becomes increasingly important as people age and Hollwich encourages people to do activities that create exercise without intention.
4: Eat Social. You are how you eat. As people age, it is not only important to eat healthier but also eat more socially.
5: Access Vs. Mobility. As people age, they will most likely lose their driving privileges which can induce depression. Whether walking, ride-sharing, or using self-driving cars, it is important to be able to remove driving from lifestyles without limiting mobility so seniors can retain their freedom as they age.
6: Make a House Into A Home. “Today we buy apartments for their resale value,” Hollwich observes, “We buy homes for the next person, not for ourselves.” Instead, it is important to design homes to adapt to mobility concerns as people age.
7: Add Services and Conveniences. Whether sharing or trading help, communities can come together to support people of all ages.
8: Pass It On. Death and dying is still a taboo subject for many people. Hollwich encourages people to create transparency around death. “Aging is like starting a company. There are so many unknowns we have to deal with, so why not create a board of advisors that we consult early on so we have people around us to help us steer into the future?”
In response to his research around aging for his book, Hollwich created a building prototype called Skyler which enables residents to live, work, and age, all in one community. It takes the challenges of aging and turns them into opportunities.
While getting older may not be the sexiest of topics, reframing the conversation around aging is an important one as the Baby Boomers require increasingly substantial care. Hollwich’s gospel around new aging will hopefully help people foster Ideas that Transform.