Posted by: prataap | March 9, 2008

POLARIZATION TREND 4: Family:What is This Family Thing ? Alone ? Create Your Own


What is this Family Thing?

Alone? Create Your Own!



The concept of family continues to mutate rapidly and radically first from the notion of  tribes to multi-generational to nuclear family. In the last two decades alone, the single parents, the teenage mother, the gay parent, the surrogate mother, and many other options for “family” unheard of even 25 years ago have crept into social acceptance.  

While the legal, social, and economic ramifications of many of these are still in flux; a whole new concept is fast emerging. Creating your “adult family”. You choose the people who you want to be your family, and define the ground rules, traditions, and customs for the family. Two factors are influencing this.

First the need of the aging boomers for an immediate, intergenerational family in light of the fact that today in the age of choices, we travel and grow so far apart from our biological families that we often have more in common with total strangers in “chat rooms”.  And at the same time in urban areas there is an increasing social acceptance of vast deviations from what previously constituted family and community. 

Starbucks lounge has become the defacto daily quick fix for a sense of both family and community. Hardly satisfying, but it’s a trend looking for other places to stick to and congeal.  

One critical social need that will drive this as the baby boomers age, is a great fear of dying alone and all forms of “families” will emerge to fill the void. Boomers are defined by their need to create their own destiny and as they age, “unfinished family business” will be a persistent theme that many who will have spent their adult years “achieving” will want to try to address before they move on to the next galaxy. Opportunities abound.



If you are a healthy, creative, sociable person, with a unique personal story to tell, you will be in high demand to be part of such families. And if you happen to have a useful skill to contribute, then all the better. A person may be a member of more than one family at one time. People will create many rituals that are new and unique and many retail/service/professional opportunities will be created to fill the new family traditions and life styles.

A mundane example could well be architects finding an increased demand for the 60’s concept of co-housing that will mutate into many forms depending on the “chosen” family structure and needs of the “created family”.

Live in place dying.  What’s coming to a city near you is high rise housing that combines independent living, assisted living, and nursing facilities all in one building in the middle of downtown, not out in some place bucolic.  Harvard, MIT and Mass General Hospital are collaborating to produce ” a multi-general residential community of a diverse group of people with an affinity for university life.”  University affiliated multi-generational housing is just the tip of this iceberg.

Similarly, many new rituals of death and dying will evolve as these families of individuals decide what would be meaningful to them. Scattering ashes in the backyard is passe, having them sprinkled among the stars in outer space can soon be arranged. Services that cater to helping you create and desolve your self created family, like bridal and wedding consulting services, will flourish as a niche in the next 20 years. Like the resurgence of middle aged novices entering religious orders, many will find family in existing religious and other communities. Start your own family around a common interest or theme and see them flock.

Some families may even want to “stay together” in some form after they die, while others may want to be transformed into interactive avatars on the web. The reality is that in this age of personal evolution and change more of us will grow emotionally distant from and live and die physically away from our biological families.  Personal coaches and other forms of personal guides will also proliferate as surrogates for traditional family support systems of the past.  

And therefore the need for an immediate family that is based on the specific “support system” that is meaningful to your specific personal identity will create concepts about “family” that might remain outside the legal system for a while before they get lumped under “domestic partnerships,” or some other jargony title for social and political convenience. In the meantime, think way outside that box on your neck and find your service niche that caters to these contemporary forms of families. 

According to the Social Welfare Research Institute at Boston College these boomers in the US will be inheriting in the ball park of $11 to $17 trillion dollars worth in estates from their parents in the next two decades. They will spend it all on themselves, and that too mostly on preserving their idea of youthfulness in any way that they can.  Feeling young is the cornerstone of this generation’s identity.

Don’t just stand there , go create that family you care to live with and die for.   

Let your imagination run.

Create the future and smell the rose, its your move!


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