Movies have imagined tons of dystopias over the years, from Mad Max to The Hunger Games to The Flintstones. But the one we haven't seen yet is the one that will most likely happen: a GoldenGirlpocalypse. We're talking about a massive demographic shift where one in three people in developed countries will be over 60. For every kid under age 15, there will be three Gandalfs tripping over their beards.
This means a world that is built entirely for the old, with everyone else an afterthought. So let's take a moment to imagine a planet where "old" is the new "everybody."
#8. There Will Be Playgrounds for Old People
When was the last time you got to play on a playground without the condescending glares of the so-called parents of your new best friends Baylsonette, J'Adore and mYkalE M.? Years? It's almost not even worth playing anymore. But imagine climbing a slide that was custom built for your adult ass, navigating monkey bars that were calibrated for your thick paws. Merry-go-rounds, tetherball, SWINGS! SEESAWS! THESE THINGS:
It's exactly like a walker, except with the added danger of hip-destroying impact.
The idea of creating playgrounds tailor-made for old bodies began in China, then spread to Japan, where, if reports are to be believed, no children have been born since 1988. With fewer and fewer children, and old Asians bursting at the seams, local governments began disassembling children's playground equipment and replacing them with equipment designed for the elderly. It would have been sad if there'd been any kids around to whine about it.
It's like a reverse Children of the Corn without all that corn.
Today there are senior playgrounds in Germany, the U.K., Canada and Nuremberg, and most of them prohibit children from joining in the fun. One even has this totally serious sign at the entrance:
Old Germans are obsessed with having enough space, for some reason.
Proponents of the sites claim they're not just good for exercise and the laughs of bystanders, but also for socialization. As a kid, 95 percent of the fun of playing at a playground was making new friends and bullies. And for seniors living alone or with working children, getting to a playground might be the only way to ever pants someone again.
#7. Some Will Live in a Permanent Time Warp
It's 7:30 a.m. At the trilling of your Garfield alarm clock, you walk to the kitchen, fix yourself a bowl of Pac-Man cereal and settle in for an episode of Muppet Babies. You are:
A. Living in 1984
B. Living in a Diablo Cody movie
C. 89 years old, living in a future simulation of your childhood
"Happy 87th birthday, hun."
In the future it will be "C," unless things go catastrophically wrong. How will you find yourself in an elderly version of The Matrix?
Well, as more people live beyond the ages God in his infinite wisdom intended, more people are going to suffer from Alzheimer's disease. In fact, the World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, the number of people suffering from dementia will hit 115.4 million. For those of you who've known loved ones who suffered from the disease, you know that it's more than just a matter of losing the keys every now and then. As memories and routines fade away, sufferers of Alzheimer's often regress back into the world of their childhoods. So one patient might find himself retracing an old newspaper route or another might end up rigging his home in anticipation of Christmas burglars. And since there's no remedy, adult children are forced to play along with the world's worst game of make-believe.
He's actually just in the tub. Cleanup is a bitch.
Hopefully, by the time of Oldtopia, someone will have cured the disease altogether. In the meantime, some caretakers are doing their best to make their patients comfortable -- by surrounding them with fake villages designed to look like the homes of their childhoods. In the case of one Dutch village, that means shops, a theater, restaurants and a hairdresser's -- all run by caretakers in disguise. The whole town is an illusion designed to keep residents feeling safe. Another village in Switzerland is attempting the same thing, but with '50s style houses instead of an urban apartment complex.
For 150 dementia patients, their doors won't have locks, and leaving the neighborhood won't be an option. Their gardeners are really their nurses, and maybe their actual gardeners pose as Depression-era vagrants? It sounds like a complicated system. In any case, the caretakers think of their facility as a theater -- one where the patients probably don't know what's going on backstage. Not that nurses wouldn't tell them if they figured the whole charade out -- but why would they?
They're reenacting prom. You do not want to stick around for what happens at midnight in their world.
If you think this sounds terrible, ask yourself: Are you sure that you're not living in just such a simulation right now?
#6. Our Kids Will Play Us Like Video Games
Do you know what was fun about The Sims? This isn't a rhetorical question -- please post your answers in the comments section. From what we can tell, the "game" was all about monitoring the bodily functions of a house full of plodding, barely coherent people. Pretending to be happy that the little house full of pseudo-humans was thriving kind of stinks of loneliness to us. Well, in the future, our kids will be all about The Sims, and we're going to be their Sims.
"Swim your ass off -- he's deleting the ladder!"
And you know what else? We're going to be happy about it, because the alternative is nursing homes. So instead of sending parents to Deception City above or an assisted living facility, adult children are going to make use of technology to keep their parents living independently for as long as possible -- that's the good news. The bad news is that this involves your own kids remotely tracking your bowel movements some day.
In one pilot program, participants' homes are rigged with motion sensors that keep track of how fast or slow the patient is walking, door monitors that let adult children know when the patient leaves the home and refrigerator alarms that keep track of how often the occupant eats. One home tested a robot sporting a video monitor, which the adult child controlled via joystick from several states away. Again, these are all good things when we're talking about people who are one fall away from getting put in a home. P.S.: Most of this stuff is available for sale right now if you and your loved ones are having trust issues.
To be fair, that could just mean that they bought Diablo III.
Speaking of trust issues, if you've ever wanted to get back at an elder for dressing you like a cornball in school, we think you might like these things: They're called Fancy Pants and they sense when the wearer is getting too frail for their own good. Then they can send a warning to a family member or facility keeping an eye on him. Which means Fancy Pants wearers have a shot at living independently longer, but also have to look like this:
"Grandpa, you have got to get over your Dave Matthews phase."
Elderly hipster or Batman villain? You decide.
#5. Our Kids Will Be Our Sex Cops
You know old people have sex, right? Not just the spritely cute ones in the Viagra commercials, either. The ones with dementia have sex, too. The ones who don't recognize their own children, but made a connection with the lady in the room next door. And this is scary stuff, because these are people who aren't great about taking precautions, which explains why STD rates among the elderly is off the charts. No one wants Gram Gram to get syphilis. No one.
Well ... maybe one guy.
So nursing homes are in a pickle. They want their patients to be happy, and sex makes everyone happy, but good gravy -- do dementia patients even know what they're doing when they're doing it? Is a nurse going to make sure everyone's wearing their condoms before they start? These are calls no one wants to make.
Enter the brand new concept of "sexual power of attorney." Or sex police. And guess who's going to get the job? The same ones watching out for your money and health in the first place -- your kids. In the same way that you'd write a living will or hand over your finances to your adult children, there might come a time when you want your kids to authorize your right to have sex. So when worse comes to worst and a group home is the best place to be, the people in charge of your love life will be the same people you once prohibited from watching HBO after 7 p.m. There's no way that's going to end badly.
"Thanks a lot, cockblocker. You could at least let him put it in my ass."
Meanwhile, for the young folks ...