Happy homes, friendly neighbourhoods

An older woman walks on a bitumen path in a park. Two older men are sitting on a seat along the pathway.The notion of age-friendly cities is not new, and neither is age-friendly housing design. However, researchers tend to look at one or the other but not both. A study by a group at University of South Australia has sought to join the dots showing the dependency of one upon the other. Creating age-friendly environments begins at home, across the threshold to the street and on to the broader environment. Like any chain, it is as strong as it’s weakest link. While some local authorities are doing their best to be age-friendly in their area, they are not able to influence the design of mass market homes. That is the role of state governments and their control of the National Construction Code.

The report of the study titled, Towards Age-Friendly Built Environment, supports previous research and recommendations. Given that not much is changing, this is another worthy paper. The key point is linking life at home with life in the community and showing how it supports the health and wellbeing of older Australians. This in turn takes the pressure from government funded home modifications and support services – not to mention tax payers.

Abstract: The population of aged people is increasing dramatically throughout the world and this demographic variation is generating different challenges for societies, families and individuals in many different ways. One of the effective approaches for responding towards demographic ageing is to have more evidences on creating age-friendly communities. Despite of having number of researches on ageing, there is limited knowledge on identifying components for developing age-friendly communities and cities. This research therefore, aims at discovering the benefits of properly designed age-friendly communities and interrelationships of key related concepts. To accomplish this aim, relevant research papers have been reviewed and subjected to thematic analysis.This study emphasizes on improving the overall wellbeing of elderly not only by finding out the improvement strategies on the health care facilities but also by finding strong evidences on benefits of designing their housing and immediate outdoor environment. Therefore, this study recommends future research directions on developing built environments responsive to the aspirations and requirements of aged population which can not only assist the adoption and maintenance of an active lifestyle, but it can also be beneficial to the physical and psychological overall well-being of aged population. More studies on planning urban environmental settings targeting aged population can be beneficial to not only aged people but for people from every age group. Thus, these settings will be advantageous for anyone with varying requirements with changing generational needs and lifestyles from a child to a couple to aged people.

Home for Good

A vase of purple and white flowers sits on a small table with a cup of tea, an open book and a pair of glasses.What is a home? It’s so much more than a shelter from the elements. The concept of home gives us a place in the world. It underpins our identity, our relationships and our understanding of who we are and where we fit in the scheme of things. It is intrinsic to the human condition.Yet it is overlooked in the development of policies to support housing provision.

Home for Good is a policy brief “intended to restore the idea of home as both a psychological and social asset to our discourse on housing, rather than just a financial asset. It is specifically concerned with the role of the home as we age, positing that successful ageing is dependent on a person’s access to a home that provides security, community, safety and autonomy”. The policy brief poses a policy framework for a national approach to providing older Australians with homes that meet their social, emotional, environmental, and psychological needs.

The policy brief says nothing about the design of homes, but it does tap into the real meaning of home for many older people – the social equity. Hence the reticence to move to age segregated living. The article can be downloaded from the Analysis & Policy Observatory. It’s by Emma Dawson and Myfan Jordan of Per Capita. Easy to read.

 

Interior design for brain trauma

A set of technical drawings with a set square and pens sit on a table top. Dementia and autism have received a lot of attention in the design world, but what about people with brain injury? I suspect some of the design solutions are similar. Using a human centred approach an exploratory study looked at developing a prototype home that could address common symptoms of people traumatic brain injury. The idea is to minimise negative feelings and behaviours. The title of the article is, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and the Built Environment. It lists design measures for different symptoms. The article is technical in parts, but the background, findings and conclusions provide some interesting reading. Also good for those involved in Specialist Disability Accommodation

Anyone involved in dementia and autism studies relating to the home environment should also find this interesting. Health practitioners who know about the health side of things, should find the home design ideas useful. The authors from University of Nevada conclude that “The strength of these designs is that they do not call attention to a differing ability,…” That’s also what universal design is about.

Abstract  Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are often connected to the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease commonly found in athletes, military veterans, and others that have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This formative exploratory  study looked at person-centred design techniques for a person with CTE. The person-centred design method used for this study was based on a two-tiered reductionist approach; the first tier was to identify common symptoms and concerns associated with CTE from the literature. This information provided specific symptoms that were addressed through brainstorming ideations. Each singular ideation accommodated the singular, or small cluster of symptoms, that affected a person with CTE in a residential environment. This method of understanding a health condition through its symptoms, and then designing for those symptoms can extend the practice of interior design by providing probable solutions to specific health symptoms, thereby including designers into the healthcare team. Commonly identified behavioural and physical symptoms of CTE served as the factors of analysis and thus a variable of design. The health condition symptoms became the variables of design, and each symptom was assessed through additional data obtained from the literature for environmental causality, mitigation, or accommodation. Once the outcomes were determined, each design implication was assessed for its relationship to specific design actions.

Ageing and the Australian dream

An older man stands by a post with his arms folded looking a little puzzled.. He is wearing a shirt and has his pullover tied around his waistLooking at housing through a typology lens, Matthew Hutchinson discusses the issue of suitable housing for an ageing population. He claims that segregated and congregated living is unlikely to serve the upcoming older cohorts. Instead he poses the idea of “salt and peppering” suitable housing for older people in developments. There is a mention of accessible features in the research, but ideas such as having stairs to stay fit are questionable. A useful text giving an Australian context, but lacking is the concept that all new homes can be designed for ageing in place, at any age, and also provide a safe workplace for care staff and family carers. However, there is much more useful discussion in this chapter.

Hutchinson’s book chapter is titled, The Australian dream or a roof over my head. An ecological view of housing for an ageing Australian population. 

The chapter is a result of a PhD research project and can be found in, Designing for Health & Wellbeing, Home, City, Society.  You might be able to freely access some of the text via Google Books

Editor’s note: Ideas such as salt and peppering in communities takes us back to the proportion argument. Without a register of accessible homes that means they will disappear into the general milieu of the marketplace. Having stairs to stay fit sounds good, but we can’t put off ageing for ever. Besides, accidents and chronic illness can happen at any age to render a person immobile either temporarily or permanently. That’s not the optimum time to think about moving. 

 

Government perspective on accessible housing

Brightly coloured graphic of little houses clustered togetherWhat do government representatives think is the best way to supply homes suitable for people with disability? A research study by an occupational therapist and an architect found out. Mandating accessible features in all new mainstream housing is the way to go. That means both owners and renters would benefit. Plus it would suit ageing in place and not be detrimental to the rest of the population. One participant suggested that the Livable Housing Design Guidelines should be turned into an Australian Standard. That would also help guide home renovations. The research also looked at technology and support issues. 

Although this research was specific to Australia’s National Disability Strategy, the findings on housing share similar responses found in other research: there is no real benefit in segregated “disability housing”, but much to be gained from housing that also suits people with disability. The title of the article is, Government perspectives on housing, technology and support design within Australia’s National Disability Strategy. It is also available on ResearchGate or the Wiley online library.  

In the Results section of the article, authors Libby Callaway and Kate Tregloan summarise the participants comments about making all homes accessible: 

“Several opportunities to take advantage of, and to stimulate, both accessible and adaptable housing supply and demand were identified through the focus group. Participant 5 stated, “This is a conversation about housing for people with disability, not disability housing”. Aiming to design and build homes that may also be rented on the open market or on-sold highlighted the need for suitable housing models beyond single houses. This need for a range of housing options, suitable for on-selling, has been identified in both current research and NDIS policy documents (Wiesel et al. 2015a; National Disability Insurance Agency 2016c). Roundtable participants recommended a legislative approach to increase accessible housing supply. They felt this would ensure an increase in volume via inclusion of accessible design principles and relevant standards within regulations for all buildings (e.g. via the Building Code of Australia) and other regulatory devices. This was seen to offer benefits to people with disability as well as other community groups, such as ageing Australians who want to remain living at home. It was anticipated that a relatively low-cost impost would offer great community benefit, depending on the level of requirement established (e.g. silver-level Livable Design compliance; Livable Housing Australia, 2012). Participants suggested this approach may offer greater flexibility for any subsequent home modifications required for people with disability. Participant 7 summarised the need for further work in this area: “Making all housing accessible isn’t already a national level of discussion . . . Liveable Housing design can be taken over [and incorporated] into the Australian Standards”

There is much more to this study which includes inclusive communities, integrated technology and transportation.

Editor’s note: While such an approach will suit most people with disability, there are some people who will need a home designed or adapted around their particular needs and that of their carers. This is the role of the Specialist Disability Housing funded under the NDIS. 

 

A Place to Age Right

A fireside, a hot drink in a mug and slippered feet up on the recliner.An Australian perspective on living in the right place in later life is the subject of a new report from the Global Centre for Modern Ageing. Their research is aimed at the business community, but the findings support other social research. They use a “House-Home-Haven” framework to present their findings. They found that older Australians are not planning their enablement to remain at home:

    • “Despite wanting to stay at home, only 17% of respondents thought their home would require repairs or modifications to enable them to do so.”
    • “Even amongst those who are experiencing difficulties at home, only 40% acknowledge the need for home modifications.”
These findings repeat that of the larger scale AHURI research that found  most want to stay put and think their current home will enable them to do so. Similarly, the My Home My Choices Tool is a response to this issue.
The report identified seven distinct needs that make the right place: Choice; Safety; Comfort; Access, Independence; Connection; and Happiness. But they weren’t planning get all this in a facility where help would be available. There’s much more in this easy to read report, Ageing in the Right Place
Related research by Caroline Holland looks at how older people’s loneliness isn’t just about where and who they live with. She also has a book chapter on a similar topic

Attachment by design

A row of villa units with palm trees around.Attachment to home is a complex concept. For older people it is often interpreted as a place holding memories and providing security and peace of mind. Consequently, attachment to home is usually cited as the reason older people are not keen to move. However, it could be because there aren’t any better places to move to, and that includes retirement villages. The design of the dwelling might be more important than the “resort-style” features in the glossy sales brochures. And that comes down to the details of the design.

Residents in a retirement village were the subject of a recent study to find out what would help them become more attached to the place they might move to or live in. That is, what design features would make them feel happy. Functionality of the space turned out to be key – not the latest fashions. This excerpt from the abstract shows that:

“…having an open/semi-open layout of internal space, large windows and plenty of sunlight, accessible large closet and storage space, shared/public green space and accessible and age-friendly design of entry, bathroom and kitchen area are features most participants found to be important in raising their sense of attachment to where they live”.

While this study was not on a broad scale, it does indicate that these features, which would be attractive to any age, aren’t just needed in retirement villages. If we had mainstream homes with these features then perhaps more older people would “rightsize” to a new home.

The title of the thesis from New Zealand is, The Role of Architectural Design in Enhancing Place Attachment for Older Adults in Retirement Communities, by Masoumeh Shiran.

 

Homes of 2030

A woman stands holding a sheet of paper with her statement of what Home 2030 should be. A whiteboard with lots of post it notes is behind her.The Design Council in the UK ran a workshop to ask participants to think about the future and their homes. They presented a series of scenarios based on experts ideas about our living arrangements. There was a call for human contact, and for the public and private outdoor spaces and gardens by the homes. The group also wanted to see whole neighbourhoods that were “self-sufficient, sustainable and communal”. Homes would be “safe, comfortable and warm, for all the family from the cradle to the grave”. 

It is good to see that the concept of home does not end at the property boundary, but merges into the neighbourhood. It’s not clear who the participants were, how they were recruited, or what groups were represented. This is an ongoing project and it will be interesting to see if inclusive design gets a mention or whether getting older is outside the participants’ frame of reference. The title of the article is Our Home of 2030

 

Are we achieving inclusive design?

Front cover of inclusive designer book. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) asked Julie Fleck to write a book about inclusive design, which was published recently. Fleck was asked by Tourism for All whether she thought we are doing a good job with inclusive design. She said the UK has made huge progress since the 1980s when access became a town planning matter. Improved building regulation, including housing, have had a significant impact on the accessibility of the built environment.

The book also provided an opportunity for Fleck to look at what still needs to be done. She discusses the need to challenge perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. These are the factors that exclude and discriminate – often unintentionally. The book also looks at the London “Square Mile” and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It has case studies and lots of pictures. The title of the book is, Are you an inclusive designer?  

Overview: Despite improvements in the last 20 years we still have a long way to go before all of our buildings, places and spaces are easy and comfortable for all of us to use. This book puts forward a powerful case for a totally new attitude towards inclusivity and accessibility. Exploring both the social and the business cases for striving for better, this book will empower architects to have more enlightened discussions with their clients about why we should be striving for better than the bare minimum, and challenging the notion that inclusive design should be thought of reductively as simply a list of “special features” to be added to a final design, or that inclusivity is only about wheelchair access. The ultimate aim of this book will be to help make inclusive design business as usual rather than something that is added on to address legislation at the end of the development process. Accessible and engaging, this book will be an invaluable resource for students as well as practicing architects, richly illustrated with case studies showing both good and bad examples of inclusive design, and celebrating inclusion. Rather than a dry manual, this book combines a powerful, thought-provoking polemic arguing for a step change in attitude, a guide for practitioners on how to have constructive conversations with clients around ID, and a learning resource for students and architects on how to adopt inclusive design and inclusive environment approaches in their work Offers an engaging challenge to widespread assumptions around what constitutes good, accessible design Provides practical advice, illustrated with case studies, for inclusive design principles The book will also act as a guide for practitioners on how to have more enlightened discussions with their clients around inclusivity

Housing: What next for an ageing Australia?

a blue glowing house icon is held in the handsIf you ask an older person if their home will suit them in their later years, they are likely to say yes. But how will they know and will they find out when it’s too late? That is the key issue when policy makers talk about ageing in place. Are we actually prepared for it? And not only are they people’s homes, they are potentially the workplaces for care service staff. 

The intersection of home design and support services is one of the factors looked at by Matthew Hutchinson from QUT. His thesis looks at a myriad of housing types including collective living and mutual support, which on the face of it, looks like group home living. Building design is mentioned in passing. The thesis proposes several ways of re-thinking the types of dwelling and dwelling arrangements that might better suit older people to age in place and receive care at home.

This is a very academic text with lots of diagrams and flow charts. Suitable for architects who are interested in housing typology and policy makers interested in ageing in place strategies. The title of the thesis is, Housing for an ageing Australia: What next?  

Abstract: Within the policy context of ageing-in-place aspirations, this thesis examines the potential nature of housing for Australia’s ageing population. By conceptualising housing and support together as an ecology and using grounded theory methodology to involve relevant stakeholders the thesis reveals both the desire and need for new urban and suburban based housing typologies arranged around collective living and mutual support. It further proposes a performance brief comprising desirable housing design principles. The thesis makes a contribution theoretically to the fields of architecture and critical gerontology.