Housing and older people: four strategies

A brick house showing small pane windows and window boxes with a green hedge in frontIn his conference paper, The Future of Housing for the Elderly: Four Strategies that Can Make a Difference, Jon Pynoos continues to advocate for accessible housing and home modifications. His arguments are not new – they just need to be kept up, given there has been no change in Australia or the USA since this campaign began some 20 years or so ago. It is not a long article, but gives an overview of some of the issues preventing good renovation design and design of new homes. He then discusses some of the particular issues in the USA including older people ageing in ageing buildings. As for new homes, he cites building standards as being the biggest barrier to creating homes that will suit people throughout their lifespan, and that won’t need modifications later on. Professor Pynoos adds more evidence on the failure of voluntary codes in this regard. His conclusions join the dots between all the elements that would make for successful lifelong homes. Jon Pynoos is well known in housing and home modification circles. Over his long career he has campaigned for accessible home designs and universal design through his many articles and conference presentations. 

The article was published by The Gerontological Society of America,  Public Policy & Aging Report, 2018, Vol. 00, No. 00, 1–4


Universal Design in Housing

Front cover of book showing lots of different sized and coloured cubes stacked. The title banner is in dark yellow For anyone not familiar with the movement for universal design in housing, Introduction to Housing has a chapter that gives a really good overview of how to incorporate UD into the design. It covers each of the design features and explains that they can be factored into moderately sized homes. The chapter addresses each of the classic principles of universal design and how they apply to housing design. A case study illustrates the features. As with many Google Books, many of the pages are freely available, but for the full chapter you will need to contact the authors, Hartje, Ewen and Tremblay or purchase the book.

Introduction to Housing, 2nd edition, is edited by Katrin B. Anacker, Andrew T. Carswell, Sarah D. Kirby, Kenneth R. Tremblay. 


Let’s get physical at home

Lounge room with two white couches with blue cushions. A rocking chair with red cushions is also in the pictureIn the rush to get people walking and being “active travellers” we’ve forgotten a place that most of us walk everyday – our home. This becomes even more important for people who have difficulty getting out and about in the outdoor built environment. So what features should we be looking at in indoor environments to encourage physical activity?  Maureen C Ashe is interested in this question. Her book chapter, Indoor Environments and Promoting Physical Activity Among Older People, looks at the issues. You will need institutional access for a free read from SpringerLink.

Abstract: Our house, our homes, ourselves: who we are, and the places that we inhabit are indelibly interwoven. Data are fast accumulating on the significant role of the outdoor built environment and physical activity (and health). For populations such as older adults with (or without) mobility impairments, a poorly structured built environment can significantly restrict community engagement. Despite the fact that we spend most of our lives indoors, there is far less empirical evidence to discern features of the indoor environment that influence physical activity. There is a need to focus on buildings incorporating age-friendly designs to support “ageing in place,” to build homes (and communities) that nurture social interaction, and identify destinations and routines that encourage adoption of activity into daily life habits.


Downsizing: It’s not about the money

A large two storey weatherboard home with a big garage and drivewayPolicy makers think that downsizing is largely about finances and homes being too large to suit ageing in place. But the evidence is something else. Research findings put to bed some of the myths younger policy makers have about older people and their ideas on housing.The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has released an overview of research carried out on downsizing and older people; “Government policies to encourage downsizing are focussed on stamp duty reductions for older households however research shows there are a wider range of barriers to downsizing (real and perceived) for older householders other than financial reasons”. It would be good if homes were universally designed with the lifespan in mind – that’s what older people want – to stay put for as long as possible. Time for policy makers to re-think. Young people think of house and equity. Older people think of home and security. The title of the article is What are the contributors and barriers to downsizing?   


Preferences of older people in residential design

Aerial view of high rise buildings in Hong KongGuy Luscombe did a great report on his findings from a study tour of residential settings for older people. He found aspects such as natural light were of important to residents. A similar study was undertaken in Hong Kong looking at age, gender, marital status, etc., to see what their design preferences were. The importance of living in a space you like has ongoing health benefits (or detriments if not). This is a fairly thorough study using qualitative techniques which looks at residents preferences. Differences emerged about windows, but there seemed to be some general agreement about bedroom size. The title of the paper is, Comparison of facilities management in private domestic buildings among different elderly groups in Hong Kong.  Here is the last part of the abstract:
“The result shows that satisfaction with natural daylight was significantly different among elderly people of different genders, while the one-way between-groups ANOVA indicates that satisfaction with the size of bedrooms, turning spaces at doors, temperature in bathrooms and/or toilets, colour, accessibility and ease of closing or opening the doors were significantly different among elderly people belonging to different age groups and of different marital status and education level. Designers and private developers are therefore recommended to increase the sizes of bedrooms, install windows on opposite sides of walls in the flats and ensure there is an adequate light reflection ratio for wall and floor colours, in order to accommodate elderly people’s special characteristics.”  


The value of home modifications

AHURI Home Mods report 2008With changes to the way services are now provided through NDIS and My Aged Care, the argument for maintaining state funded home modification services is somewhat obsolete. However, within the findings of the AHURI report is a section on the qualitative research on older people and the perceptions of their homes in terms of ageing in place.The original aim of the research was to provide evidence for ongoing policy development for home modification programs in Australia given that homes have not been designed to cater for the lifespan – a span which is likely to include disability or frailty in older age.

The report is titled, “The role of home maintenance and modification services in achieving health community care and housing outcomes in later life”, and is by Andrew Jones, Desleigh de Jonge and Rhonda Phillips for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, 2008. 



The Home is for Every Body

Front cover of the thesis showing four pictures of homes and apartments along with the title of the thesisRachelle Newman‘s Masters thesis provides some valuable insights into some of the issues in creating accessible homes. Although it was written in 2010, the content is still relevant as little, if any, change has occurred in the house-building industry. The thesis is well researched, well written and well presented. It discusses the role of Livable Housing Australia, Landcom Guidelines, national standards, state planning instruments, and legislative frameworks. The section covering the relationship between the adaptable housing model and the universal design model is very useful for anyone confused by it. Tables and photographs add to the explanations throughout. The title of the thesis is: The home is for every body? An investigation of the statutory and strategic planning implications of inclusive housing design.

Abstract excerpt: Through qualitative research and a critical review of legislative and policy frameworks, this thesis explores the employment of two types of inclusive design – adaptable and universal – in Australia wide and NSW contexts. The research reveals how a lack of coordination at the national level has resulted in a divergence of approaches and interpretation between states. … This thesis offers an understanding of the planning implications of inclusive housing design so that better policy and legislation may be developed.

Editor’s note: We may get progress in 2018. The Australian Building Codes Board has been charged with the task of overseeing a Regulatory Impact Assessment of accessible housing. See previous post about this.


Universal design in the kitchen

Picture shows a kitchen in timber tones. There is an island bench with an induction cooktop. Drawers replace cupboardsThe Center for Real Life Design at Virginia Tech renovated two kitchens to incorporate many universal design features. One kitchen was designed for a multi-generational family, including an older grandparent and a child with autism spectrum disorder. The second was planned as a multifamily kitchen. The Center’s webpage has an article that explains the design features. Several pictures show what was achieved. The first part of the article is focused on the Centre itself, but further into the article there are detailed explanations.

Julia Beamish also published an academic article on this project that can be accessed from Ingenta Connect: Real Life Design: A Case Study in Universal Design

A related article by Sandra Hartje, also available through Ingenta Connect, is Universal Design Improves the Quality of Life for Individuals, Families and Communities. It is more about why it is important for families and communities to design universally rather than how to design.  


Cost benefit analysis of home adaptations

Logo is a red angle like a roof with the acronym belowThe objective of this 2005 study was to develop a framework for the cost benefit analysis of two programs of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, including all effects on applicants, their caregivers and their community. The two programs are the Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence Program (HASI) and Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program for Persons with Disability (RRAP-D). This paper includes cases studies and lessons learned in developing two methods for measuring cost-benefits. It also lists all the costs and benefits that might be relevant and discusses how each might be measured. CMHC has a library of publications and resources.


A rose by any other name…

Desert Rose house showing solar panels on the roof, plain pale yellow walls with out windows but with fenestrated pattersLiveable, Livable, Lifetime, Accessible, Universal – no matter what you call it, all homes need to be designed to suit people across their lifetime and across generations, and that means catering for diversity. A team at University of Wollongong have come up with another name, Desert Rose. But this home is designed to include people with dementia. It is based on research carried out jointly by students from University of Wollongong Australia-Dubai and TAFE NSW. A three minute video gives an overview of the design. It is not clear if the aim of the project is for one-off specialised homes, or designs that can be incorporated into mainstream housing. If all new homes were accessible/universal/liveable now, adding dementia-friendly features, such as colour contrast wouldn’t be a major drama. You can read more in the Aged Care Insite article.

Editor’s Note: It is a pity to see a ramp – perhaps it is just for the prototype. Many people don’t like to signal that their house has a person with disability. Unless or until ramps become commonplace, this will cause people to shun the design. In terms of aesthetics, it would be good to landscape a grade to the entrance so it doesn’t need rails. Alternatively, landscape the rails so they are not so prominent. In any case, the walkway to the entry should be the shortest route possible from a car drop off or parking space.