Appealing to the consumer is at the heart of the success for any value proposition – this holds true in housing. A cornerstone to a connected, livable neighborhood is the sense of delight that it brings to those who live within it or access it regularly. This sense of delight is the value proposition that must be cultivated in order to establish vibrant, lasting and successful neighborhoods. The delight often strikes people when they are surprised by a sense of beauty or creativity. It can also come from an alleviation of stress through activity or the proximity to natural or created beauty.
Thought leaders in urban development tend to describe the creation of urban landscapes, parks and gardens as an important way to foster a sense of community. There is a fundamental issue with developing and maintaining these urban landscapes – supply of labor. Urban parks and gardens need dedicated, patient and experienced care in order to grow and evolve into places where exploration and wonder can occur. Most people don’t find sustained delight spending time in a newly constructed park adorned with wilting shrubbery and freshly laid sod. Working adults may be able to dedicate a few hours per week to these gardens or parks, but this is often low on the chain of priorities. The answer is in our retiring generations.
The U.S. has a population that is aging rapidly as many baby boomers are on the cusp or have just begun phasing out of the working world. Many of these people will stay in their neighborhoods with fewer responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. The health benefits of regular low-impact physical work, such as gardening, are enormous and the likelihood for the creation of places that bring wonder and delight into the lives of neighbors is great. As this population ages, it is important for us all to think deeply about how to keep these gems rooted in our neighborhoods, instead of thinking about creating communities just for them elsewhere. Cultures that incorporate the elder generations into the daily life of their communities reap significant benefits particularly in cultivating desirable neighborhoods rife with local wonder.