What does life look like after the pandemic’s impacts have settled into a new normal?
Futurists often use stories for sharing predictions. The following three stories project the future conditions for home and family life in 2030. The stories are framed with a few clearly identified trends and issues in the USA during the pandemic period: co-living, home schooling, aging Boomer population, student debt, retail transformation, a struggling travel industry— among others. Some of these driving forces were already in motion prior to the pandemic, while others gained importance only because of COVID-19-related lockdown policies and social distancing practices. These scenarios explore how the unique social dynamics that manifested during the pandemic could influence American lifestyles over the coming decade, especially in the context of home and living.
Scenario 1 - Hotel life: Hotels and abandoned malls become pandemic-proof senior citizen communities.
Travel and retail sectors were never the same after the 2020 disruptions. It was not that they never recovered, but they were never the same. By 2030, a glut of abandoned real estate (hotel, entertainment, and retail that had succumbed to economic pressures of the pandemic) had become gradually renovated to accommodate a growing American retirement population. They borrowed pandemic-proofing ideas from communities in China, built in response to 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, and retrofitted blueprints of housing designed for eventual Mars colonization. Futuristic concepts were thrown at a single social problem: how to build safe, sustainable, and economical retirement communities and nursing homes.
The living arrangement could provide adventure, allowing for a surprising variety of movement and mobility. Hotels became more like timeshares where residents would move (in clusters, also known as “pods”) from place to place, seasonally sometimes. The once-thriving international tourism economy still sputtered in 2030, but groups of older Americans revitalized the classic recreational hotspots of the 20th century (Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains). Older people who had survived had become precious members of society. After the pandemic, they were seen as honored guests at all national landmarks.
For less mobile seniors, outdated malls were transformed to indoor cities with clinics, exercise trails, and community kitchens—all within hundreds of steps of where seniors slept in dormitory-like rooms. Green renovations to the buildings themselves allowed for indoor gardening/farms and many of the cooperatives had a net-zero impact thanks to effective, sustainable design elements. Senior citizens were well-looked after by respectful physicians, social workers, and health care professionals in these settings. Young people often volunteered to help out. There was recreation and education for all ages and abilities, and it was given freely to anyone over age 65. The operations were fully-funded by taxes (US $0.01) on e-commerce retail transactions.
Scenario 2 - Unschooling crusaders: A generation embraces homeschooling in lockdown.
Edgar is a 15 year-old American boy who, for as long as he could remember, has been homeschooled by his parents who were working from home. They never dropped him off in a school carpool line or packed a lunch for him to eat away from home. Instead, the entire family found a different rhythm in the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Edgar was only five years old in 2020, so he lacks memory of a time before his parents worked at home and helped him take online classes.