Students Design Futuristic Cities Where Senior Citizens Thrive, Age With Grace

Judges David Schlegel (left) and Jeffrey LeMack evaluate a presentation by Sylvi Teich (background right) and Anya Ranft during DiscoverE's Future City Competition on Saturday at the Kern Center on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. They girls are students at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa.(Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Buy Photo


Imagine the city of Amanecer, which in Spanish translates to “dawn.”

It’s far into the future, and while this city is fictitious, it has solved problems that real urban areas face now, in 2018, regarding an aging population.

Located in the mountains of Colombia, Amanecer is a city with nearly 20% of its population over the age of 65.

The sidewalks have a “respected” lane for citizens with mobility issues.

Refrigerators, stoves, cabinets and dishwashers are all robotic and easily adapt to their user. There are companion robots that interact with old people through different personalities.

The elderly can visit a nostalgia village that shows old movies and has other amenities rapidly disappearing from a modern world.

This imaginary city is 2,220 miles from Milwaukee, says its co-creator, Anya Ranft, a student at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa.

Yet, in some ways, it could be a glimpse into our future and an aging population. 

Amanecer uses activities, and a sense of community, to provide seniors with an environment that is both nostalgic and modern, Ranft said.

Saturday, Ranft and about 250 other middle-school students from around the state unveiled models of futuristic cities that solve age-related problems.

The event at Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Kern Center represented months of work by 66 teams of students from 32 schoolsvying for the chance to compete in a national event in Washington, D.C., in February.

>Buy Photo

Students from New Berlin Eisenhower Middle School staff their presentation during the Future City Competition. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The five finalists in the Wisconsin competition were Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa, Glen Hills Middle School in Glendale, St. Alphonsus School in Greendale, St. Anthony on the Lake School in Pewaukee and Forest Park Middle School in Franklin.

The winner was St. Alphonsus, which will go to the national competition.  

In its 26th year, the Future City Competition includes more than 40,000 students from 1,350 schools nationwide. There are a growing number of international teams, too. 

It’s an opportunity for middle-school students to envision the future as they develop their science, technology, engineering and math skills.

Dealing with an elderly population is the theme of this year’s competition, said Kelly Wesolowski, program manager for STEM Forward Inc., a Milwaukee-based group that promotes science, technology, engineering and math careers.

As the baby-boomer population continues to grow old, "what are we going to do for older adults? There are so many challenges. It’s kind of neat to see what these kids have come up with,” she said.

Working with a teacher and a mentor in the STEM fields, the students built table-top city models from recycled materials. They also had to write a 1,500-word essay and present their idea for a futuristic city to a panel of six judges.

One of the plans incorporated islands in the Atlantic Ocean where people could live a healthier life.

“Eventually we, as a human race, will run out of space on just normal continents. If we are able to utilize space that the ocean provides, we could live on earth for a bit longer,” said Cassie Kowalski, a Butler Middle School student.

>Buy Photo

Students from Barneveld Middle School carry their presentation back from judging during the Future City Competition. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Some of the other cities the students designed had flying cars and ultra-fast public transportation covering miles in seconds.

“The impact of transportation on seniors is huge. Most older adults can’t drive or have trouble getting in and out of the car, which makes them less socially and physically active because they can’t get around the city,” one team of students wrote in its essay.

“Our walls have motion sensors, and when they sense a senior coming, they move so that there is more space. Our stairs turn into ramps so that seniors can get around any building,” the team from Forest Park Middle School wrote.

In that futuristic city, the average lifespan is 101 and you wouldn’t be considered a senior until you were 80, due to advances in medical technology.

The city, named Consone, has bright-colored houses since bright colors have been proven to boost people’s mood. In another city, instead of stairs, there are tilted, moving ramps.

One city has robots equipped with games, video chats and smoke detectors. The robots will even detect illnesses, prescribe medications and take blood tests.

“The city also provides free healthcare so that people have medical help whenever it’s needed,” the students from Glen Hills Middle School wrote.

Many of the designs included futuristic technology, such as a power system that taps into heat from the bowels of the earth, holograms that serve as classroom teachers and vertical gardens 40 stories tall.

“All of this is in the future, so it doesn’t have to be completely feasible,” Wesolowski said.

>Buy Photo

Judges evaluate a presentation by students from St. Alphonsus School in Greendale (front center). St. Alphonsus won Saturday's competition and will advance to a national event in Washington, D.C., in February. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

In one of the cities, 3-D printers would create replacement body organs.

One city combines a senior center with a child day care center, giving seniors involvement with children, while kids without grandparents would have an older person in their lives.

A design from students at Golda Meir School in Milwaukee is for a city half under water.

“You could watch the fish swim by. We think that would help calm people if they need surgery or something,” said student Evelyn Vondre.

>Buy Photo

Judges evaluate a presentation by students from St. Alphonsus School in Greendale during DiscoverE's Future City Competition Saturday at the Kern Center on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee. The competition for the 68 middle school teams is to design a city of the future. This year's theme is "The Age Friendly City." The first-place team receives an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the Future City Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

In Amanecer, younger adults would live with the elderly to support and help them. And if young teens wanted to move out of the house early, senior citizens could support them and serve as parental figures.

The way for Amanecer to solve problems linked to age is to understand them from an older person’s eyes, Ranft and teammate Sylvi Teich said about their plan.

Top Headlines:

Flu outbreak in Wisconsin is severe, widespread

Automation will prompt more employers to add jobs than to cut, Manpower says

Women's March organizer advocates for change with Saturday rallies


Source :

Students design futuristic cities where senior citizens thrive, age with grace
Thirteen Miami visionaries — and how they’ve helped transform South Florida
Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?
It’s Time to Found a New Republic
Do We Really Want to Live Without the Post Office?
Talk to The Times: Martin A. Nisenholtz
NOW Transcript
Hardback school yearbooks thrive even in the digital 21st century
Breakaway Senate Dems unveil 'Invest New York' policy agenda