Future thinking, as I write about it here, isn't meant to predict the future, but rather to find plausible outcomes down the road, and the unexpected consequences of a present-day issue.
As I like to think about it, the emphasis is on possibilities, what could happen, not what might or will happen.
Finding workable strategies is needed for adults, especially when they have fragmented family members living hundreds or thousands of miles away and there's no hope for assistance. Furthermore, the growing group of people aging alone have dire needs to plan ahead because there's no question they will be without family to step up.
So, thinking about the future for this set of individuals is a way of discovering new outlook and ideas for today's decisions, and for the unpredicted problems. However, individuals still have to make plans and select options or choices based on what is to come.
For example, when I considered a move from a 2 story single family residence in the suburbs, the factors were downsizing, car dependency, isolation, and staying safe since stairs were involved.
I could not predict whether the stairs would cause a slip or fall (scary though since the washer and dryer were on the second floor.) However, growing older in a two-story home was a big concern.
This is what “future thinking” is all about… find the potential unexpected consequences of present day issues of growing older and then, follow a strategy to observe what's possible instead. And hopefully, create several "possibilities," because as life plays out, one can never know what's on the other side.
Real Unexpected Consequences
Do you remember the one-child-per-couple policy in China back thirty-five years ago?
China's unexpected consequence -- a shrinking population hampers economic growth. Now, officials encourage childbirth because they worry that the fertility rate has sunk well below 2.1, the level required to keep the population stable in the long term. The government’s announcement in late 2015 that it was relaxing the policy, after 35 years. Yet the two-child-per-couple policy that replaced it may bring different kinds of problems.
If you follow the news about senior care, it's easy to relate to the unexpected consequences of having less children here in the U.S. Wasn't it just 10 years ago or so that the ratio of family caregivers to those in need, were 7 to one? Today, it's 3 to 1.
Fascinating EffectsWhat blows my mind when thinking about the future and the consequences we may face:
Take the 0 or 1 or 2 child-family decisions - the unexpected consequences opens doors to new technologies like:
Senior Planning Using future thinking strategies can help family caregivers prepare for what they could expect down the road if they were called on for help and then mitigate potential unexpected consequences of no planning:
Thinking about the future helps us address the challenges of tomorrow by thinking about plausible scenarios today. To confront our concerns successfully, we must consider the implications of the action steps we take as conditions evolve.