MIT AgeLab researchers collaborated with scientists at the universities of Coimbra, Portugal, and Porto, Portugal, on a poster presented at the 2021 MIT Portugal Conference on the future of urban life in the wake of COVID-19 and in the context of an aging population. This work was supported by a grant from the MIT Portugal Partnership 2030.
Titled “A Cross-Cultural Exploration around the Future of the City and Urban Life in the Post-COVID Era,” the poster displayed results from a small, exploratory interview study of urban-dwelling US and Portuguese residents.
As background, the poster observed that in both the United States and Portugal, the population is both aging and urbanizing, a twin set of demographic trends that have collided with the COVID-19 pandemic. The interview study was intended to understand and internationally compare urban residents’ attitudes toward and use of their cities, with attention paid to gender and age differences.
The pandemic significantly influenced the results from both countries. Respondents often reporting relying on personal vehicles rather than public transportation to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. Some participants also reported an increase in online shopping due to the pandemic, although the oldest participants were less likely to do so. One difference between the US and Portuguese cohorts was the awareness and intention to support local businesses in the wake of the economic disruption produced by the pandemic, with Portuguese respondents more likely to note the importance of shopping locally and to plan to shop locally in the future.
Going forward, the researchers plan to pair the interview findings with national surveys from residents of the US and Portugal on the same set of topics.