Karun Chughasrani

Civic Futures


Bryan Boyer


A global demographic transition is upon us: the world is becoming older by the minute.  Over the next two decades, as the US experiences a rapid growth in the number of elderly residents, our formal institutions will struggle to cope with the future; already skyrocketing healthcare costs, access to care, and demographic pressures are signaling a system overload. Will aging populations stay healthy, with a sense of wellbeing, social engagement, and productivity, or will they face illness, disability, and dependency?

Research shows that about 80 percent of health consequences are caused by factors unrelated to the medical system. A literature review of recent studies foregrounds the disastrous effect that loneliness and a declining social capital have on seniors. Social isolation takes a heavy toll on those who suffer from it, both in health and overall well-being. An effort to quantify the cost of loneliness among Americans aged 65 or older shows that it costs the US government nearly $7 billion in additional health care costs per year.

Meanwhile, with the rise of the sharing economy, and with increasingly ubiquitous computing, we are witnessing the proliferation of co-working, on-demand services, ghost kitchens, and robotic deliveries. These are signs of emerging economic subcultures that are currently serving a richer and younger segment of the population. Aging in the Alleys projects a future alternative that repurposes these economic and technological developments to create opportunities for healthy placemaking that benefit a wider age bracket.

The project reimagines Chicago’s alleys as vibrant civic assets and investigates new forms of public spaces that accommodate a new symbiosis of elderly occupation and automated businesses.