Age-Friendly Housing Resources: A List

Front cover showing yellow boxes approximating rooms in homes.RIBA’s Age Friendly Housing publication, has an updated and long Reading List that brings together a selection of  articles not previously referenced in Age-Friendly Housing: Future design for older people. The updated reading list reflects a selection of relevant reports published since the launch of the RIBA book in July 2018. Also there are also two websites with further lists of design-related resources relating to age friendly and accessible housing: Design Hub – Building homes and communities, and a research collection on zotero, the RIBA research library.  

Housing Design Guide from South Australia

Photo used for front cover of guide. It shows an outdoor area similar to a veranda.Housing for Life: Designed for Living was developed for the South Australian Government with an emphasis on population ageing and supporting active ageing policies. The report documents the features and factors that older people themselves identified as important as well as industry perspectives. It also outlines the economic arguments for considering the housing needs of older people. Examples of floor plans are included. The key principles identified through the co-design process are: 

Choice: Older people want to have choices about how they live, and scope to personalise their homes.
Quality: It is better to invest in quality fixtures and fittings now for better efficiency and maintenance in the long term.
Wellbeing: Wellbeing is a direct result of connectedness with community and home.
Design: The concept of passive and flexible design that adapts to people’s changing requirements, needs to be central to new Housing SA builds.
Cost: Older people prefer smart investment and the ability to personalise their homes, to ensure cost efficiencies are retained, but without sacrificing good design.
Smart: The integration of smart technology and renewable energy ensures these homes stand the test of time and remain affordable.
Access: Proximity to transport, services and the community is fundamental to living and ageing well, as are neighbourhoods that are easy to get around and foster active travel choices.

The report concludes: “There is significant economic opportunity to be gained by addressing housing, social and ageing related needs through innovative design.
> Technology has a critical role to play in meeting unmet needs for independent living, connected living and well-designed housing.
> Older people are an extremely diverse group and no single design will meet all needs. Age friendly housing options should be as diverse as the people who will live in them. However, there are core principles that apply across this population group and from these, flexible design can be developed.
> Co-design between the housing sector and end-users is essential for accurate and relevant design.
> Quality design and product are highly valued and of equal importance to design features that address ageing-related challenges.
> Features that are valued in age friendly housing and neighbourhood design are energy efficiency, natural lighting, connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, walkability, proximity to transport and services, connection to community balanced with privacy and security, and capacity for personalisation.”

The report is 16 pages in PDF.

Dementia friendly home design

Front cover of UD Dementia Friendly homesThe Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a comprehensive set of guidelines for creating dementia friendly dwellings, both new and existing. They have also published the extensive research that underpins the guidelines. Although the resource has a focus on conditions in Ireland, there is good information for everyone. It includes useful examples and design checklists. The key point is that dementia friendly dwellings are not exclusive – taking a universal design approach means that anyone can live in them.

There are five sections to the guidelines that can be downloaded separately: Introduction, Location and Approach, Entering, Exiting and Moving Around, Spaces for Living, and Elements and Systems. Or you can download the sizeable guide in one go.  

Apart from some of the other issues of ageing (although dementia can be experienced at any age), here are some of the key factors that need to be considered in the design:

● Impaired rational thinking, judgement, and problem-solving.
● Difficulty with memory (initially short-term but progressing over time to long-term memory difficulties).
● Problems learning new things.
● Increasing dependence on the senses.
● Fear anxiety and increased sensitivity to the built and psycho-social environment. 

It pays to be sustainable and inclusive

A desktop with a sheet of printed calculations, a calculator and measuring instrument with coins.Interesting results are reported in an engineering and mathematics research paper from Europe on the costs of including both sustainability and inclusive design thinking in dwellings. All costs involved in constructing a home were taken into account: materials, labour, construction, and the running and maintenance costs of sub-components over the entire life-cycle of a home, which is a nominal fifty year period. The authors claim that by taking the cost savings due to efficiency and adaptability of the home, there is a 23.35% reduction in overall costs. Therefore it makes sense to take this path for cost reasons alone: “If it were not for any other reason, like protecting the environment or caring for [people with disability] and for our comfort, there would still be a valid point in using these materials and technologies from the costs’ point of view”. The paper includes graphs and detailed calculation tables. The title of the paper is “Techniques for ensuring cost savings and environment protection in buildings” and is published in Applied Mathematics, Mechanics, and Engineering Vol. 61, Issue IV, November 2018. 

WHO Housing, Health & Accessibility

Multi coloured graphic depicting the key elements in the guidelines "How housing can improve health and well-being".The WHO latest guidelines on housing and health have five key areas and accessibility is one of them. The “strong recommendation” is, “Based on current and projected national prevalence of populations with functional impairments and taking into account trends of ageing, an adequate proportion of the housing stock should be accessible to people with functional impairments.” In the remarks it argues that living in an accessible home improves both independence and health outcomes. Although the guidelines argue for a proportion of housing stock it has put the issue on the agenda. It shows it is as important as all other factors. However, the notion of proportion can lead some agencies to think that means specialised and segregated housing. It is worth noting that the lead author of this section is an Australian, Prof Peter Phibbs. The other key areas are crowding, indoor cold, indoor heat, and home safety. For more detail there is an additional document showing method and results of the systematic review that underpinned this section of the Guidelines – Web Annex F. and includes interventions such as home modifications and assistive technology. 

Longevity, housing, carrots and sticks

A view of a narrow street with two storey buildings on either side and shops with high rise buildings in the background. With 28% of the population over 65 years, suitable housing is a critical policy area for Japan. In his latest article, Satoshi Kose argues for ageing in place and compares Japan with UK and US housing policy from an ageing perspective. Voluntary guidelines for new housing has not worked and Kose says in his conclusion that viewing housing construction as a booster for economic growth where quality of design is out of question means that “Japan must pay the cost of that ignorance as the country grows older and older.” Australia should heed this warning. The title of the article is, “Housing Design for the Ageing: Struggle Toward Supporting Age-in-Place Instead of Special Housing for Seniors”. The article discusses the attempts made in Japan, UK and US to introduce universal design features but with little success. He concludes we need both carrot and stick approach – regulations and incentives. The housing industry is complex in all three cases and this is why we need both carrot and stick (for our housing donkey?)

Satoshi Kose has been writing and researching housing design over many years. He is Emeritus Professor at Shizuoka University of Art and Culture. This paper was presented at the UDHEIT2018 Conference

Sea Change or Urban Uplift?

long view of a Perth city mall with shops and cafes under awnings and trees for shade. Tall buildings are in the backgroundA thoughtful article from an architectural group about ageing in the urban context. While some retirees will seek a sea change to resort-style living, others want to stay connected to their families and established neighbourhoods. The article critiques the age-restricted model and proposes alternatives, one of which is flexibility of design across the housing market so that people can receive care at home when it is needed. This fits with the principles of universal design as outlined in the Livable Housing Design Guidelines at Gold level. Other key points are inter-generational interaction, connectivity, inclusion, and proximity to conveniences. A good article on Aged Care Insite from an architect’s perspective. 

Teaching and learning UD in real time

Student's model of the housing site showing topography and buildingsCork County Council in Ireland has provided an excellent opportunity for second year architecture students to get some hands on practice and expand their design thinking. In Kevin Busby and Jim Harrison’s paper, Universal Design in Architectural Education – Community Liaison on ‘Live Projects‘, they report on imaginative examples of student responses to the challenges of integrating age-friendly features in housing. They also report on the learning gained from observing students and finding out the main design difficulties they found in the process. Illustrations demonstrate some of the ideas. Good to see students operating in the real world and making a difference.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Home Coming? Yes it’s possible

A graphic in shades of green showing various types of dwellingsA timely article from Penny Galbraith given the Australian Building Codes Board’s call for responses to their Options Paper on Accessible Housing. Essential reading for anyone proposing to submit a response (closing date is 30 November). The title of Penny’s paper presented at the recent UD Conference in Ireland is, Home Coming? A Story of Reassurance, Opportunity and Hope for Universally Designed Housing in Australia.  You can also see Penny’s analysis of the Options Paper. It is on the open learning platform for convenient access. There is a short summary to get you going and an alternative question response sheet that you can submit. This is a very important time for this issue. There may not be a second chance.

Paper Abstract: This paper shows the complexity of housing and how it is the linch-pin for achieving economic, social and human rights imperatives. In Australia there are no minimum housing standards; the effect is now critical. In October 2017, a regulatory impact assessment was instructed, to consider Livable Housing Australia’s Silver and Gold standards, for inclusion in the National Construction Code. A substantial research project provided a knowledge and evidence base of the policy perspective; an expanded statistical context; and detailed analyses of Silver, Gold and Platinum design levels. The policy perspective included greater economic focus. The effect on productivity, directly attributable to housing, is significant. 34 specific policy ‘problems’ were identified that could be solved or mitigated if acceptable standards of housing were introduced. It is reassuring that universal design has permeated all levels of government policy. The statistical context explored demographics, households, dwelling types; tenure; occupants; disability and carers. Detailed analyses challenged many common assumptions and re-framed accessible housing into a mainstream problem. 73% of all dwellings are separate houses and the average home has 3.1 bedrooms. There are tremendous opportunities for universally design-led mainstream solutions. The compliance gap analyses show which design features might cost more; have potential to be designed out; or be cost neutral. Many design features are cost neutral and arguably should be included within mandated standards. As there is a minimal gap between universal design standards and current housing, there is hope that all Australians will, one day, live in a universally designed home.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Flexible housing offsets risk

Picture of a tall long skinny house with white lattice covering. It fits into a driveway.The current standard design ideas for homes goes back more than a century. It’s time for a rethink on home design to suit the way we live our lives now is the claim in an article by Kirsty Voltz in The Conversation. Home designs are not keeping up with societal changes that include affordability, size of homes, accessibility across the lifespan, and designing so that as lives change, the interior of the home can adapt to suit. The risks are in not recognising the need to change and adapt to current circumstances, lifestyles, societal changes and personal aspirations. The article contains links to other references and concludes, “Existing housing stock is designed around the numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms that appeal to the market and so fails to be responsive to what people need from housing in the 21st century.” This includes the need for an update to the National Construction Code for creating homes that provide at least a basic level of accessibility for all. The picture is of the 3 bedroom home that Kirsty Voltz designed to fit in the space of an obsolete driveway.