• gabriellehalpern

Let us hybridize retirement homes!

Do you know how to say “retirement” in Spanish? "Jubilacion" ... A word whose Latin etymology indicates to us that it is a "song of joy". Nothing to do, therefore, with the French term of "retirement", which the ferocious Latin etymology associates with the action of "withdrawing". A language is always also a vision of the world ...

But how can we accept that it is this term that expresses our vision of the role and place of a growing part of our population? This idea of ​​withdrawal is terrible. The term "retirement homes" is so appalling it's crazy that we ever thought of calling them that. Why "remove" these generations from our society? Why do we talk all day about inclusion, social diversity - when very often, unfortunately, what is done in this sense is more of "social juxtaposition", that is to say that individuals coexist , but do not meet -, and do we have such a hard time embracing the elderly in our society? When will we finally take seriously the great challenge of generational hybridization[1] ?

Urban planning, public services, products, real estate, leisure, mobility or even uses: everything must be rethought, everything must be reinvented, because the demographic transition[2] and the aging of the population it entails, will strongly disrupt our society. Policy makers need to stop seeing older people as a "box" in their political agenda or plan; in the same way, we must stop considering the "silver economy" as a specific sector of activity, because it is the best way to create fractures and a society in silos. By categorizing populations, public and private decision-makers prevent themselves from thinking about and constructing a true generational hybridization.

What if retirement homes were also startup incubators, nurseries, museums and gyms, would that really lead to confusion? Why do we always need to put people, things, ideas, cultures, products, services, uses, in boxes? Do we not see that these labels that we believe to be reassuring and that we spend our lives sticking on others and on things, make us completely miss the reality of the world? Do we not understand that they lead us, in spite of ourselves, to hurt this reality, by cutting it into pieces? We approach the world with a cabinet brain with drawers. We are subject to a "drive for homogeneity"[3] which systematically makes us put things or people who are alike in the same box: we put startups with startups, the elderly with the elderly, and so on! By dint of devoting for centuries a cult to identity, - identically -, we have forgotten that the world is fundamentally hybrid, that is to say heterogeneous, mixed, contradictory, and that in a hybrid world ... you have to learn to hybridize and to hybridize yourself [4] !

Let us hybridize retirement homes with museums, restaurants, sports halls, nurseries, startup incubators and theaters, so that they welcome other audiences, so that they are places of life, land learning, meeting and crossing levers. It will not be a question of being satisfied with juxtaposing spaces, audiences, uses, but of creating the conditions necessary for meetings between all these people, all these uses, all these activities, despite their differences, despite - sometimes - their contradictions, so that there is metamorphosis of each by contact with the other. In order for older people to no longer have to withdraw from the world, we are going to have to innovate to keep them, to come back, to transform, and to help us transform too. And these retirement homes will turn into "houses of jubilation"! Generational hybridization is not just a duty, it should be a basic human right!

[1] Gabrielle Halpern, "Let us all Centaurs! A praise of hybridization", Le Pommier, 2020.


[3] Gabrielle Halpern, Thinking the Hybrid, PhD Thesis in Philosophy, 2019.

[4] Gabrielle Halpern, "Let us all Centaurs! A praise of hybridization", Le Pommier, 2020.