Foxes and Planes

How a McDonalds in Queens became a natural gathering place for the local elderly community.

A certain Mcdonalds in Queens, New York made the news because of a conflict the staff had with local elderly Korean patrons who were overstaying their welcome apparently.

It turns out that these patrons were using the McDonalds as a gathering and meeting place for one another. It was one of the few suitable locations in the community that was convenient enough for the seniors to visit. It also had a lot of things that made it naturally attractive for the community, including window seating, cheap coffee, and proximity. All of these seniors lived within 2 blocks of the restaurant.

Although there were many other restaurants nearby, for seniors who have trouble traveling, those other locations were too far. The local senior center, which was a mile away and in a church basement was also not attractive as a gathering place and the seniors wanted to be independent and travel when they wished, not when transport was available.

So the McDonalds which was perfect for bad weather, winters and summers, became the perfect meeting place for the local community. It also naturally became a way for seniors to check in on one another and make sure that they were ok. Everyone visited at least once per day to let others know that they were alright.

The interesting thing here is that the spaces that were designed to be supportive for seniors were not meeting this particular groups needs and was not giving them the freedom that they wanted to live on their own terms.

Just because something was created to function in one way, does not mean that people will use it as intended. This extends to spaces as well, as seen here in this instance.

The fact that this community was also using McDonalds as a way to keep track of one another and make sure they are all ok is also an intriguing form of social innovation.

See also the post on the Casserole Club for another instance of how communities keep tabs on their local elderly residents.

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