Home design and later life

Front cover of the publiacation Innovatin in Aging. White top border and orange bottom borderTwo interesting poster presentations on home renovations in later life are available in the published program abstracts from the 21st International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress. The first is about the outcomes of planning (or not) to move to a more suitably designed house in later life, and the second is about academia working with consumers and the construction industry to introduce universal design features into home renovations and repairs.

Planning for moves in late life: who plans and how does planning influence outcomes?, shifts the focus from staying put to moving so that people can age-in-the-right place. Poor health was the main reason for not planning a move, and wanting to live closer to children was the main reason for a planned move. The abstract ends, “The current study illustrates the relative benefits of planned moves among older adults. While planning is not always possible, as in cases of sudden illness situations, older adults should be encouraged to engage in planning for residential moves by healthcare professionals to help them better adjust to a new living environment.” Read more by going to the link above.

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilEducating home contractors on universal design modifications: an academia and corporate collaboration, investigates whether educating homeowners about universal design influenced any repairs they made following a home insurance claim. The researchers found that almost all homeowners included UD features and this lead to a voluntary 6- week online training program to educate contractors who work with customers to discuss and promote UD with policy holders at the time of a claim. Read more by going to the link above.


UD and falls prevention in senior housing

Living room with patterned rugs, coffee table, casual chair, arm chair and couch; a standard lamp, picture on the wall, and bookcase. It looks lived in but not a lot of room to move aroundA comprehensive study of home design for ageing in place by Swedish researcher Roya Bamzar provides good design guidance for modifications of existing apartments and new builds. Using the seven principles of universal design in the case study, Bamzar assesses the main rooms in the home: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. The safety features that accrue through applying UD are an important factor in reducing accidents and falls, as well as providing greater convenience and useability. Bamzar has used the 1997 original principles of universal design as a metric, but this may not be the most useful guide to measuring outcomes in this case. However, this is an important study in the area of specialised senior housing design and how modifications can improve safety, use of space, and quality of life. Over-furnishing, as shown in the picture, is a problem for many older people who are attached to their belongings and can cause difficulties for moving around the home.

The title of the article is: Assessing the safety and quality of the indoor environment of senior housing: a Swedish case study.

This paper is one of four as a result of Roya Bamzar’s doctoral thesis.


Sustainable Apartments – Nightingale Housing

Architectural solution to sustainable, affordable and community-focused living in Melbourne, Jeremy McLeod of Breathe Architecture presents the Nightingale model. 

Between urban compression and urban sprawl, Jeremy suggests an architecture of reduction, which provides moderation of these housing models. Using architecture as a catalyst to engage and generate interaction, Nightingale supports communication and community. Jeremy also explains how they side-stepped the property developer control of design and put it back in the hands of architects.

Through a triple bottom line approach – financial return, sustainable and liveable, Jeremy’s vision provides a universal design approach to the housing product.

Watch Jeremy’s TEDxStKilda talk below:


UN survey on adequate housing

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing invites organisations to complete her survey. Governments, human rights institutions, organisations and networks, including organisations of persons with disability, and other relevant stakeholders, are encouraged to share contributions and inputs for her report. She welcomes information on innovative approaches and successful programmatic and legislative initiatives as well. The survey questionnaire can be accessed in English, French and Spanish by going to the webpage to download in Word or PDF.

There does not seem to be an Easy English version. There are 8 questions – below are the first three:

  1. Please explain how the right to housing of persons with disabilities is guaranteed in domestic law, including constitutional provisions and human rights legislation.
  2. Please provide any useful statistical indicators, analysis or reports regarding housing condition of persons with disabilities, the extent of homelessness and discrimination, (including failure to provide reasonable accommodation) in the private or public sectors. Please also provide references to any documentation (written, visual or otherwise) of the lived experiences of the housing conditions of people with disabilities.
  3. Please provide data on the number of persons with disabilities living in residential institutions and relevant information on the progress towards developing or implementing deinstitutionalisation strategies to facilitate a sustained transition from institutions to community based living arrangements.



Downsizing? Baby Boomers defy predictions

facade of a double fronted two storey home with grand entrance. A McMansionIt’s unlikely that baby boomers thought about their latter years when they bought their dream home. But they are having to think about it now. The renovation industry is due for a boom, particularly those versed in age-friendly universal design features. Housing experts predicted “the great senior sell-off”. But boomers aren’t selling – they are staying put as Bruce Judd and his team at UNSW found. They like what they’ve got, and they are comfortable in their neighbourhoods. So retirement village living is less likely to attract. 

Mimi Kirk in a CityLab article looked at new research from Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies that discusses issues related to housing type, affordability and the different expectations of millennials and boomers. One other reason for boomers not selling is that millennials are not really interested in the style of homes of their parents and grandparents own. There goes the myth that boomers are (selfishly) holding onto homes that millennials could buy. Millennials are looking for smaller more affordable starter options. This also goes for boomers who want to downsize. Time for developers and builders to take note and to take up the challenge of all new homes by 2020 to be to the Livable Housing Design Guidelines.


Kitchens and older people

3 pictures of kitchens used in the study. One shows a china cabinet, the next a step ladder and the third an ironing board More than any room in the house, the kitchen needs to be a place where tasks can be done easily and efficiently. Kitchens are also an important area for social interactions during meal preparation and clean up. As people age, more thought needs to go into kitchen design to overcome issues such as reaching, bending, grasping and holding. However, this should not mean a complete kitchen renovation if these issues are considered in the original kitchen design.

Kitchen Living in Later Life: Exploring Ergonomic Problems, Coping Strategies and Design Solutions is the result of research from different disciplines in the UK. As an academic paper there are some technical references, but the reports of the interviews with older people are quite revealing.  Reaching and bending caused the most problems, as well as grasping and lifting. Lighting was also an issue, especially for reading the small print on packaging. The article proposes solutions, some of them related to rearranging things for ease of use.

As kitchens in the UK include a washing machine (there are no separate laundry areas in the home) the research extended to laundry tasks. Ironing proved to be the most difficult. An interesting study, particularly as we can all relate to both good and bad kitchen design and fitout. This is especially the case with, say, a broken wrist, or slipped disc, which can happen to anyone at any time.

Related topics are kitchen appliances, and the work at the University of Cambridge Inclusive Design team and their online Inclusive Design Toolkit. 


Urban density: not the answer to everything

Picure of very high rise buildings on the waterfront at Dubai UAEWithout asking older people, politicians and planners make frequent calls for older Australians to give up their three bedroom homes to make way for “working families” and move into apartments. Regardless of a somewhat ageist inference that older people are “hogging all the houses”, with the political focus on working families, little room is left to discuss the housing needs of older cohorts. Research by Bruce Judd and his team at UNSW on downsizing found that the majority of older people want to stay put, not move into apartments. But there still remains the question, will these homes support them in their latter years? This is a discussion that the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design has been chasing for many years, but with little political or market success. Within the older cohorts the number of people with dementia is expected to rise significantly, but not much thought has been given to their housing needs.

A newly published article, Housing and age friendly communities policies for future direction – A stepped approach puts the spotlight on this issue. Participants in the study were representatives from peak housing organisations, including strata managers, and advocacy organisations to assess how well their membership were prepared for this group. 

The article comes from the International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties Deakin University, Melbourne 9-10th February 2017.

The picture was taken in Dubai, UAE.