The fact that ageing populations in low- and middle-income countries are on the rise presents unique challenges for those who are building and designing homes for elderly people. Medical care is not the only challenge – there is a strong need to focus on the spaces that older citizens will inhabit.
The U.S. Census Bureau 2017 National Population Projections predicts that 2030 will be an important demographic turning point in U.S. history. All baby boomers will cross the age of 65. This means 1 in every 5 residents will reach superannuation.
The Silver Tsunami
Within the context of these statistics, sectors such as construction, architecture, and technology need to figure out practical solutions for medical care, hospital design, and accessible cities.
However, this may or may not address the problem of social isolation and loneliness. In the US, 27% of women aged between 65 to 74 lived on their own in 2014. In the UK, 51% of both men and women aged over 75 lived alone.
Prevalent chronic loneliness within an elderly population has drawn the attention of health scientists and social researchers. Conclusions drawn have shown that there is a measurable health impact since such individuals develop a higher risk for disabilities, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. How do the nature and design of living spaces assist senior living?
RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and New London Architecture have begun to create roadmaps that could lead to a systemic breakdown of older practices and give rise to a new set of design ideas and implementations.
It is hoped that the captains of this industry will work together to brace themselves for the impact produced by a population that may be limited in terms of mobility and navigation.
Particular attention is required to ambient assisted living for elderly people who are affected by Alzheimer’s or advanced dementia. We need insights on how and why we must adopt design practices based on engagement and interaction of our senior population with the outer and inner environment.
HAPPI is a serendipitous acronym. The Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation is a group of case studies from Europe. The panel’s findings range from architectural (anthropometrics, lighting, and other services) to social (engagement with surroundings) aspects.
The Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme is another move in this direction. It supports innovation and development in ICT-based products, services, and systems for aging well at home, in the community, and at work, thus increasing the quality of life, autonomy, participation in social life, skills and employability of elderly people, and reducing the costs of health and social care.
Twenty-two European countries set aside a budget of 600 million Euros over five years to co-finance projects aiming to improve seniors’ quality of life and home care through technology.
Ambient technology can function with little input from the user and can be integrated into an environment — anything from GPS devices that help prevent people with dementia from wandering, to fully integrated “smart homes” that keep track of residents’ health and safety. More comprehensive goals address crucial issues such as mobility, independence, social interaction, and meaningful activity.
PRP’s award-winning Pilgrim Gardens’ scheme for older people for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society is assisted living apartments that feature several of the assistance components advised by the HAPPI.
Double-aspect flats encircle communal garden spaces of hard and soft landscaping, and a shared colonnade acts as a slow circulation space. In-built sliding glass doors allow the use of the balconies throughout the year.
An Age-Friendly World
The WHO has been advocating for cities to adopt the idea of an age-friendly world since 2010. In 2017, the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging declared the college “towns” of Provo-Orem, Utah and Iowa City, Iowa as the no. 1 big and small cities for successful aging respectively.
These cities are examples of municipal and local resources working together to promote participation, health, security, and independence through multiple avenues, including providing safe, accessible transit, posting easy-to-read signs, and developing integrated and accessible intergenerational cohousing.
It is time for other cities and their governments to identify opportunities and enter the ambient assisted living landscape as trailblazers.
Smart cities are a ubiquitous concept in 2019. The liveability quotient remains undecided. While the expectations of each community may be different, addressing the future of elderly care has become critical.