Humans spend so much time and energy trying to hold onto our youth, but have we been approaching the process of aging all wrong? New Aging (Penguin Random House), a manifesto put forward by architect Matthias Hollwich of Hollwich Kushner, prompts readers to put aside preconceived notions about aging through "simple ideas to help us experience life smarter, better, and longer.” With the population of people 65 and older expected to double by 2035 (according to McKinsey), New Aging offers those of us who will be part of that boom a chance to see aging as an opportunity rather than a burden. We recently caught up with Hollwich, 44, about his reasons for writing New Aging, as well as 'Skyler', the groundbreaking multi-generational skyscraper that he and his partner Marc Kushner designed to accompany the book. Read on for the full interview and a video about Skyler.
INHABITAT: Your book New Aging tackles a subject that most people don’t think about until it’s too late. What is the book about and what can people expect to learn from reading it?
HOLLWICH: New Aging is filled with 90 suggestions that people can incorporate into their daily lives whenever they feel like – ideally sooner rather than later so that the lifestyle changes can take full effect. The beauty is that these changes have a positive effect on all ages because who doesn’t want to be more healthy, happy, social and connected, especially as they get older? My belief is that if we don’t apply New Aging principles we will miss out on the beauty of life in our later years – ending up in retirement communities, assisted living facilities or nursing homes, places that nobody aspires to live in.
INHABITAT: What inspired you to write New Aging? What do you think is missing from our current conversation about aging?
HOLLWICH: As an architect, I am always curious how to design better buildings – and when turning 40 I looked into buildings that we as society provide for our older members – and realized that they are terrifying. But we don’t have to accept what has previously been prescribed to us, rather than re-designing and making facilities better which I’m excited that a lot of architects are trying to do – we instead need to look at the core issue of age segregation. We need diversity of all ages in our communities, and we need the ability to age at home where the vast majority of the population desires to.
INHABITAT: In conjunction with New Aging, you have also developed an architectural concept for multigenerational living called “Skyler.” Tell us about how Skyler would work and what kinds of spaces are inside.
HOLLWICH: Skyler is a building prototype that incorporates the ideas of New Aging within an urban skyscraper, enabling users to age in one place.
The building program consists of residential units for 1000 people of different typologies with tailored amenities placed throughout the building. Fifty kids below the age of five; 210 minors below the age of eighteen; roughly 500 working adults; and 150 seniors above sixty‐five. The building offers a mix of micro studios to maximize economy, pooled apartments that eliminate isolation, and duplexes that act as single family homes. It also incorporates special amenities like shared transportation to extend mobility and services to help facilitate laundry, grocery shopping, and school dropoffs. It includes a business continuation center for the 65+ community that is hardly ready to retire, daycare centers for small children, an infirmary for the 0.5% in need of extra care, a health center where anyone from 20 to 90 can stay healthy and fit, and social activation that keeps inhabitants engaged their whole lives so that they can nurture an informal support system with neighbors, family, and friends.
INHABITAT: You have said that one of the core flaws in today’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities is the lack of age diversity. How do you think people living in environments with many different age groups benefit over those living with just their age peers?
HOLLWICH: Society thrives with diversity, whether age, sex or race. We become curious, we experience something new, we exchange ideas and we learn which is the engine that makes our lives rich and exciting. We have to work hard to eliminate segregation – and when taking about aging, segregation is caused by efficiency of services that can be provided in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and retirement communities – but innovation in architecture, logistics, and technology make that advantage obsolete – we can finally develop the support system that is needed at the places people want to live their live all life long.
INHABITAT: What do you think is the secret to aging well? What do you do in your own life to help you age gracefully?
HOLLWICH: It’s not so much about anti-aging – it is about New Aging. Embracing the reality of life and making the best of it. It is about being social, engaged (never really retiring), staying fit, mobile, and connected – so ultimately it is the full package of activities that make our lives rich and exciting at any age – now we just have to make sure that we can do that also with some of the physical and social deficits that do emerge as we age.
Are you ready to kickstart your track towards your best older self? Order New Aging ($17) at the New Aging website.