In discussing a recent piece from sociologist Eric Klinenberg about how cities can better prepare for climate change and natural disasters, MarketWatch jumps to an odd conclusion about McMansions and longevity:
As politicians and civil servants study how to prepare communities for the possible effects of future disasters or climate change, Klinenberg writes, they’re taking social infrastructure into account. And while it’s tricky to extrapolate broader lessons from these very specific situations, Klinenberg’s work does seem to reinforce the broader point that, for older people, social isolation can become a health threat in its own right. For the baby boomer trying to decide between a “Main Street” condo and a McMansion, or a retirement community and a farmhouse, it’s food for thought.
I don’t understand why a McMansion is mentioned here. The suggestion does fit with general stereotypes that neighborhoods of McMansions tend to be antisocial places where wealthy suburbanites only want to retreat to their electronics and nuclear families rather than engage the broader world. Critics suggest McMansions are all about privatization and not engaging with others. Hence, solutions to McMansions and sprawl such as New Urbanism tend to design things in such a way to encourage more interaction.
But, this connection doesn’t necessarily fit with Klinenberg’s analysis of the 1995 heat wave in Chicago. McMansions tend to be located in wealthier areas where people have the resources to access other forms of social support. In other words, would you be better off in a dense urban neighborhood with a strong social infrastructure or a looser suburban neighborhood with more money? Also, do a McMansion and a farmhouse really fit in the same category for isolation?
In the end, I would like to see data that people living in McMansions suffer in terms of longevity because of their houses and neighborhoods as compared to other settings.