There are few television shows as prescient as The Golden Girls. The famed 1980s NBC sitcom about a group of older women living together in Miami, Florida ran for seven years and offered an early window into today’s later life. Its biting humor, double entendres, and acerbic wit opened the door to understanding the future.
It’s been just over 30 years since the last episode aired, but the lessons of the main characters; Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia, remain as relevant today as ever. Those of us entering middle and later life should take note, because their way of living are today’s emerging trends and will help many of us live in better financial and physical health for longer periods of time.
Here are three takeaways and trends that were central to The Golden Girls that are shaping the way we live, work, and play today and tomorrow:
- Co-housing is a growing reality. If The Golden Girls taught us anything, it’s that living with other people is good for our financial and physical wellbeing.
Sharing space with friends, roommates, or family, has made co-housing a dominant trend in recent years. While most of the attention is placed on younger populations, it is a growing trend for older populations too as their numbers swell nationwide. Increases in cost of living due to inflation and a hot housing market will further nudge people into a shared living arrangement, and that could be a good thing.
The reality is that the vast majority of the population has always lived with others, so co-housing in later life is a natural fit. This is especially true for those who are at risk for financial hardship, or for isolation and loneliness in later life. Co-housing can create an environment that fosters affordability and friendship, which can lead to longer-term stability and happiness.
Then, Blanche put an ad on a supermarket bulletin board seeking roommates to help offset expenses. Today, consumers are lucky to have platforms like AirBNB, SilverNest, and UpsideHōm that help match individuals with short, medium, or long-term housing needs.
- Curiosity and connectedness keeps the mind agile. The Golden Girls all came from diverse backgrounds and geographies. They brought their varied life experiences to the kitchen table and learned from each other. Their behaviors signaled the power of remaining curious and connected, as well as being open to learning and experiencing new things.
Research suggests that curiosity in later life is associated with maintaining the health of the aging central nervous system, which can slow decline in cognitive functioning; it’s also associated with better memory and well-being. Researchers have also found lifelong learning is associated with a greater increase in life expectancy, but higher education need not be formal; those of us who are curious are learning everyday.
- Challenges will continue. Whether in relationships or at work, life doesn’t get any easier the longer we live. In fact, it may throw new curveballs, including ones that threaten our health and economic security. This is especially true for women of a certain age, who see society dismissing their wants, needs and opinions on a regular basis, which is commonly known as ageism.
At least two episodes of The Golden Girls dealt with ageism or job discrimination, but these themes aren’t necessarily new. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, lamented the prevalence of ageism in his society, but he also spoke about individual responsibility to fight against it. He said, “The best armor of old age is a well spent life preceding it; a life employed in the pursuit of useful knowledge… in which he who laor to improve himself from his youth, will in age reap the happiest fruits of them.”
While attitudes towards older people have improved in recent years, ageism will likely always persist.
The Golden Girls proved that living together and building a support network of friends and family in later life helps buffet against some of the greatest challenges that may come. However, each one of us is responsible for building resilience and relevancy throughout our lives. Regardless, let us all hope that we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by those that love and support us until the end, and all the better if it happens to be while sitting around a kitchen table with a slice of cheesecake in a room filled with laughter.
This article was contributed by Bradley Schurman, author of The Super Age: Decoding Our Demographic Destiny.