Living past 100
There is evidence to suggest that in the richest countries like the UK, nearly half the babies born today will live past 100 years old. Though the UK’s life expectancy data doesn’t meet expectations, there is no doubt that with improvements in the standard of medical care, a better educated populace with better understanding of the health risks they face that people are not only living longer, but are more active in their autumn years too.
You may have heard of or engaged with organisations like https://menssheds.org.uk/ or https://www.u3a.org.uk/. The Men’s Shed aim to provide men (and sometimes women) with a place to go and engage the hands and the brain, to get away from a possibly lonely existence at home by introducing them into a community based around a workshop, for the benefits this brings to health and wellbeing. The University of the third age promotes engagement with activities in retirement again for the sense of community as well as benefits to health and wellbeing.
I’ve seen (anecdotally) a change in the demographic of those attending hackerspaces too. In the early days of Hackspace 2.0 circa 2010 by far the majority of interested people were in their mid 20s and 30s. Today I observe the the most engaged members skew closer to 60 years old and above.
It difficult to say how this trend will influence and effect the movement. There are advantages. Having a pool of retired members active in the space can be hugely beneficial. As well as maturity, this group brings a wealth of experience and a willingness to engage in a space with a sense of agency and ownership, often taking on custodial roles vital to the functioning of a space.
Though I have no real data, I would hypothesise that there are real benefits from engaging with a much wider demographic within the hackerspace community. Hackerspace generally attract a tribe which shares more in terms of devotion to an idea than it does to a race, gender or age group generally, though of course the movement is dominated by white middle aged and middle class CIS men like me just as near all tech-adjacent organisations in the UK are. This is why it is important that we understand not only what hackerspaces are for, but who they are for.
We must ask ourselves these questions in order to ensure that hackerspaces thrive and truly provide the activities, communities and resources that are needed by their audiences. Once we are certain what the “idea” of a space is then we can think about finding “the others” by which I mean those, from any background or group or whatever who share they idea. The hackspace is for “people like us” by which I do not mean people of the same gender or sexuality, social standing, financial clout, race, colour or religion, but people who share an ideal, to share a space where knowledge, funds and emotional labour come together to create a community around a workspace, greater than that which we could create alone.
I am reminded by something Frank Lloyd Wright said about the New York skyline:
“It (New York cityscape) is a great monument, I think, to the power of money and greed trying to substitute money for ideas. I don’t see an idea in the whole thing anywhere. Where’s the idea in it? What’s the idea?”
Likewise I think Hackerspaces, are in danger of become monuments to another sort of greed, the greed of collecting and accumulating “stuff”. The ability to see the “idea” in what a hackerspace is, who it is for and what it is for is essential if we are to accommodate the hackers of our spaces in the future, we need to understand that they’re going to be in the majority, older and may engage with the space in ways that are difficult for us to envision now. What can we do today to prepare for the hackerspace of tomorrow, what will keep the space vital and help those members achieve the health and wellbeing benefits of belonging to a functioning and vital community, not only populated by those in the “third age” but by people across a wide demographic who are drawn to an ideal?
Resources that inspired this post include:
and more about Frank Lloyd Wright