Policy makers are concerned about growing motor vehicle usage, pollution, and poor health outcomes due to lack of exercise. Consequently, transport and planning experts are keen to get people out of their cars an onto bikes and public transport. Creating pedestrian malls is looking like a policy favourite too. But this often means that pedestrians have to mingle with slow moving traffic, light rail, and cyclists. Alright for some, but not for everyone. So is it shared space or contested space?
Older people in particular don’t like to share walkways with cyclists. And for many older people, the car is their mobility device. With poor footpath maintenance, or no footpath at all, people unsteady on their feet will still get around by car. So not an easy problem to solve.
The study explored “contemporary national and international practices and thinking on Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones and to investigate these concepts from a Universal Design approach in the Irish urban environment. This report sets out key evidence based findings and provides key recommendations in relation to the implementation of Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones in Ireland”.
The WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities framework remains a robust method for creating age-friendly places. We can learn a lot from cities that signed up to the WHO Global Networkthat began in 2007. A book chapter compares Brussels and Manchester as a place to grow old. It shows that different policy approaches result in quite different outcomes.
The first part of the chapter covers introductory material and detail about the 8 domains of the WHO program. The interesting part, especially for local government, is the comparison of approaches and outcomes for Brussels and Manchester. Brussels, for example, focused on social housing for older people and street safety. Manchester focused on lifetime neighbourhoods and quality of life.
Manchester was more inclusive of different ethnic backgrounds than Brussels which also has a diverse population. In short, Brussels was about keeping people safe, and Manchester was about living life. The paper goes on to discuss the barriers to implementing the programme and developing age-friendly policies. There are some good recommendations at the end of this paper which was published in 2015.
The chapter title is, Developing Age-Friendly Cities: Case Studies from Brussels and Manchester and Implications for Policy and Practice. It begins on page 277.This chapter is one of several interesting papers in Environmental Gerontology in Europe and Latin America.
WHO Age Friendly Cities
Age Friendly Cities has its founding concepts in healthy ageing. Well if it’s healthy for older people it’s healthy for everyone. These cities should be walkable, compact and have infrastructure that supports liveability. But planning laws haven’t this and continue to address ageing in terms of age-segregated living arrangements.
The survey found that older people were still seen as a special-needs group rather than establishing inclusive policy solutions. The report makes some useful recommendations and the findings are applicable to any urban area in any location.
The graphic above depicts the 8 domains of life that need to be considered in making a community age-friendly: Housing, Transportation, Social Participation, Respect and Social Inclusion, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, Community Support and Health Services, Communication and Information, and Civic Participation and Employment. An argument was made at the International Federation of Ageing Conference in 2016 that housing should be in the centre of the the petals as it is the central part of everyone’s life.
It’s fitting that a landscape architecture firm should tackle the topic of connection to Country. After all, they are the ones designing our outdoor spaces. NSW legislation dictates that Aboriginal heritage must be protected. Consequently, the responsibility falls to design professionals. It’s a means of enriching the built environment, and not just a legal necessity. So, it falls to landscape architects to lead the way.
A report by Arcadia Landscape Architects aims to show that engagement with First Nations people is not difficult. They are concerned that designers will unwittingly perpetuate the colonisation of space if they continue with established practice. As they say, it has to go beyond token responses of “ornamental recognition”. They add that engaging with First Nations people continues after the life of the design project.
The report aims to encourage the wider built environment industry to engage with First Nations people. The concept of Country is more than just land, water and sky. Country is language, family culture and identity, and is loved, needed and cared for.
“Arcadia emphatically rejects the softening of language when referring to British invasion and processes of colonisation. It is a trend for these processes to be referred to as “arrival” and “settlement”, however the softening of language perpetuates myths of terra nullius and denies First Nations people their history and suffering endured.”
The report covers:
Approach and a note on language
How to engaging with Knowledge holders
Engaging with Country, which has 5 steps and examples
Engaging with Industry
What to do when you can’t engage
Where to next? includes conducting cultural training
Arcadia collaborated with Budawang/Yuin researcher and spatial and cultural designer Dr Danièle Hromek and Yuin woman Kaylie Salvatori, Arcadia’s Indigenous Landscape Strategist, to develop this research report.
The 1980s saw a turning point for people with mental health conditions. Reagan and Thatcher declared that the asylum model was dead. Australia soon followed suit with this idea. But what to do instead? And what could be done with these huge Victorian building complexes? A facility in Toronto, Canada, came up with a great idea, which was quickly copied in South Australia. Jan Golembiewski explains how the place was turned inside out for mental health.
Golembiewski writes a short story about the Toronto experience in the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health. Similarly to many institutions it took up a considerable amount of land. Urban Strategies won the contract to redevelop the whole site. It involved removing high walls and extending local roads into the site. So, in effect they were turning the facility inside out.
The design incorporated outward facing units which were connected to the urban grid. The open space then became shared space. Patients run a cafe which has some stories to tell according to Golembiewski. He says the people on the street are just a little more colourful. Mental health professionals are ready at hand to keep an eye out generally. The project has turned out to be good for patients and the community.
Virginia Richardson ran a workshop at the UD 2021 on mapping how something gets built. Although local government is not the designer, it has many responsibilities for the project from start to finish. The question for the workshop was, how can we embed universal design in the process?
Virginia began with a graphic showing an example of the number of stakeholders involved in house building.
This concept was developed further in the workshop. It showed how many people get involved in a building project from a local government perspective.
Virginia’s slides include the Draft Universal Design Policy and associated documents for the Mornington Peninsular Shire Council.
Post-COVID infrastructure projects are injecting life into economies around the world. So this is an opportune time to infuse universal design into all construction projects. Planners can play a leadership role in taking a universal design approach. But how will planners take the lead if it is not being taught?
An article in the American Planning Association online magazine, Viewpoint, challenges educators to get up to speed with universal design. The author says it is time for justice in the built environment, and universal design is the way to go. However, designers have not embraced this concept. But perhaps the momentum is shifting.
Designing for Disability Justice. an essay published by the Harvard Design School, discusses the issues. Access standards are a barrier to design – they limit imagination. It’s more about completing a checklist and offsetting liability than design. Then it’s seen as limiting design and something to be tacked on. A change in thinking is needed so that universal design is tackled as a challenge not a chore.
“Some of the strongest forces on earth — economics, policy, politics, and a pandemic — will change the way we plan for the rest of the century. … formally teaching Universal Design at the university and professional certificate level is one of the best ways to guarantee that good planning rises organically from the diverse and unique needs of end users.”
Non-disabled planners and designers are yet to understand that they are designing for their future selves. One day, they will need universal design. By then it will be too late. The time to act is now.
Most people want to stay in their own homes rather than go to an aged care institution. The Royal Commission into Aged Care report confirmed this. And the obvious follows – it’s also beneficial for governments because the costs of home care are less than institutional care. But are our homes designed to support care at home?
According to an AHURI Brief, on average, someone on a home support program costs the Government around $3,900 per year. The cost of a person living in residential care costs around $69,000 a year. These figures are the annual ongoing cost per person. The cost of a home care package ranges from $9,000 a year to $52,000 per year depending on the level of support.
The AHURI Brief includes a chart comparing the various costs of of the different packages and support against the cost of residential care. Another cost that could be reduced is the need for home modifications. Not only can people stay home more safely, care hours are also reduced. In rental accommodation such modifications can be denied by the landlord. That will lead to early entry into an institution.
The AHURI Brief concludes, “We note that there is currently no discernible connection between the Australian Government aged care program and any Australian or State or Territory Government housing program. This must change.”
AHURI(Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute) is a national independent research network. AHURI’s work informs policy about housing and urban development. They have not engaged with the proposed reforms to the National Construction Code for improved accessibility in all new housing.
Why is it still OK for older people to be “put” in aged care institutions? We closed such places for people with disability and mental health conditions last century. There will still be a need for some people to receive care in a place that is not their home. But the vast majority could be better served with homes and neighbourhoods designed to support them. And that doesn’t mean these places won’t suit everyone else – they will.
Community engagement sounds like there’s more interaction than community consultation. But is ‘engagement’ enough, or is there a way for the community to also innovate? That is, to be part of the Civic Innovation process.
Civic Innovation is a global movement embracing smart city technology and social innovation. Citizens can play an active role in democracy if they have good information to inform their views and ideas.
The Future of Place website has an article that outlines this new social and technological movement. It explains social innovation, the role of civic-tech, citizen activation, and collective impact.
“Citizens often identify social and infrastructure problems before planners and developers. But are city leaders thinking community engagement strategies are enough? Or are they tapping into these valuable networks?” The question posed is whether current community engagement processes are recruiting the next generation of active citizens. Doing more with less is also an outcome of collective impact.
Planning research has not yet evolved to include disability perspectives. Is it because the medical model of disability still prevails? Or is it mistakenly believed that disability is not a design issue? Some might say it’s because the needs of people with disability are fragmented across government departments. Practitioners in the planning field are required to engage with communities, but it seems the researchers are not keeping up.
Two Canadian researchers took a look at the situation. A search of five prominent planning journals showed that people with disability largely remain invisible. The researchers found just 36 articles – most of which come from the US and the UK. Only 20 had people with disability as the central topic.
The authors describe the content of the papers that go back as far as 1916. Attitudes towards people with disability clearly changed over the years but including them in research did not. Papers that did mention people with disability generally added them to a list of other groups considered vulnerable or marginalised.
The paper concludes:
“Planning researchers and practitioners, therefore, must continue to question what knowledge, assumptions, and biases we may have toward PWD and experiences of disability that manifest through our environment. More broadly, planning scholarship can be strengthened by continuous questioning of self—on the processes through which certain knowledge is produced or a pursuit of certain knowledge is prioritised within the discipline. The development of critical discourse focusing on PWD can be a vehicle for such self-reflection.