What you can expect over next 10 years

Meredith Hines-Dochterman
Published: January 2 2010 | 6:09 am - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 4:35 pm in
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Imagine the future, 2020 to be exact. Here’s what we know:

It will be a leap year, meaning people like Marguerite Andrews of Walker will officially be a year older. The Olympic Games will be held in the summer, and the Aral Sea in Central Asia is expected to have disappeared.

It’s not easy to predict what will happen a year from now, let alone a decade, but events in the past 10 years give some indication to those who look ahead of what the future holds.

Technology, for example, likely will have an even bigger role and greater influence on our lives — particularly cell phones.

“I think the cell phone is going to be what I call the Swiss Army Knife of the future,” said Peter Bishop, coordinator of the graduate program in futures studies at the University of Houston.

Applications we can’t even imagine will be standard. Credit cards could be obsolete, with cell phone functions eliminating the need to swipe a bar code.

“(Cell phones) will be doing things and connecting us in ways you can’t even imagine,” said Lowell Catlett, New Mexico State University futurist,

Social networking will explode, bringing people together, though not necessarily face-to-face. Still, Bishop doesn’t see that as a negative.

“I don’t think social networking means all relationships will be shallow,” he said. “People will have more relationships. They will be able to maintain them longer because it is easier to stay in touch.”

The world economy will change for the better. Countries that have seen financial growth will depend on Americans to make the products their citizens want to buy.

“It’s going to be a great decade in consumerism,” Catlett said. “The pressure will be on the raw commodities needed to make those items.”

The work force will see a shift as more and more baby boomers retire.

With finances and lack of government support limiting the choices for older generations, multigenerational homes could be more common.

“In the next 10 years, I think we’re going to see an increased need for community-based services to help seniors who want to stay in their homes,” said Dan Strellner, president and CEO of Abbe Inc. in Cedar Rapids.

Baby boomers will influence the direction elder care will take, leading to what Catlett calls the greatest decade in health care.

Wireless technology and alternative health strides will change lives. There will be an increase in volunteerism. Seniors will determine where and how they live, designing communities that meet their needs.

Andrews, who’s 73, will be celebrating her 21st birthday on Feb. 29, 2020.

She hopes families will spend more time together in the coming decade.

“We’ve lost our religion,” she said. “People don’t go to church, they don’t care about each other. I just hope in the next 10 years we’re getting along, spending more time together instead of being in a hurry.”

David Gould, academic coordinator for the University of Iowa’s interdepartmental studies program, believes families and community will attain more importance in the next decade.

Part of this is economic — living on less now has diminished the importance of material items. Another is culture. The world has spent the last decade on a treadmill, moving faster in the race to accomplish more.

“We call for a cab at the restaurant while we’re eating dessert, we leave before a sporting event is finished to beat the traffic,” Gould said. “I think we’re going to see more enjoyment of the moment as it happens.”

Iowa City Public Library Director Susan Craig doesn’t think the library’s mission will change, though the way people use it might. More items — books, movies, music — will be available to download, expanding access.

“I think the library will be even more important for Internet access,” Craig said. “Ten years ago, no one applied for a job online. Now, everybody does.”

Not all changes will be positive.

World hunger, fewer natural resources, global warming — these are real concerns. Issues discussed in this decade await action in the next. Are we ready?

“It’s the old axiom — you can live your life forward but understand it backward,” Catlett said. “You can predict some things to a certain degree of accuracy, but there are events no one could predict.”

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