Retire the retirement village

The Longevity by Design banner in pink and purple.Age-friendly communities where people of all ages live, work and play could be the way of the future. That means the desirability of age-segregated living could be on the way out. Many people will live 30 years after the age of 65 years. By 2030 all baby boomers will have turned 65 and Gen X will be joining the older cohort.  It’s time to retire the retirement village concept according to an article in The Conversation. This is based on feedback from older people in a Longevity By Design Challenge. This means we have to re-think the notion of retirement and approaches to urban design.

The Design Challenge asked:

How do we best leverage the extra 30 years of life and unleash the social and economic potential of people 65+ to contribute to Australia’s prosperity?

Sixteen cross-disciplinary creative teams considered longevity in the context of buildings and neighbourhoods. Together the participants concluded that design for older people is inclusive design. No matter how old you are you still want the same things for a good life. That means autonomy and choice, purpose, good health and financial security.

The title of the article is, Retire the retirement village – the wall and what’s behind it is so 2020, and explains how the challenge was run and some of the findings. Key points emerging from the challenge were inclusive infrastructure, people of all ages together, and a mobility “ecosystem” made up of different types of transport options. The underpinning principles turned out to be age-friendly communities, something the World Health Organization has promoted for more than ten years.

Boomers are over them

A scene from the charrette where people are sitting round a table discussing their project.

The ABC also reported on the Design Challenge and how to prepare and adapt Australian cities to capitalise on our longevity bonus. It seems walled and gated age-segregated enclaves might have had their day. Instead, the future might hold more age-inclusive neighbourhoods where older people continue to contribute into late age. So, no more need for doom and gloom about population ageing.

As an urban design challenge the design of homes suited for all ages was not included. The ABC article is titled, Retirement villages have had their day: Baby boomers are rethinking retirement

Banner for the Longevity by Design challenge in 2021.A second Longevity by Design session was held in 2021 with the theme, Feels Like Home. This one was focused on aged care and the key points are in the video below. 

Urban planning for population longevity

A row of two storey houses painted in different pastel colours.Urban designers are potential champions for improvements for population ageing. That is a key theme in an article that proposes ways for helping older people stay put in their home, and if not, in their community. The article discusses current innovations to make neighbourhoods and homes more supportive both physically and socially. These include: enriching neighbourhoods, providing collective services, building all-age neighbourhoods, creating purpose-built supportive housing.

The title of the article is, “Improving housing and neighborhoods for the vulnerable: older people, small households, urban design, and planning”. Open access available  from SpringerLink,  or  via ResearchGate.

From the abstract

Currently preferences and policies aim to help older people to stay in their existing homes. However, the majority of homes in the U.S. and many other countries are not designed to support advanced old age. Also, they are not located to easily provide support and services.

The paper examines the existing range of innovations to make neighbourhoods and homes more supportive, physically, socially, and in terms of services. These include: enriching neighbourhoods, providing collective services, building all-age neighbourhoods, creating purpose-built supportive housing, developing small scale intergenerational models, and engaging mobility, delivery, and communications innovations.


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