We expect to grow old, but because we don’t aspire to grow old, we rarely plan for it. “I’ll worry about it when the time comes” is a usual response. A new report from AHURI looks at the housing situation for older Australians and some previous research is confirmed.
Most respondents felt their current home would suit them as they grow older. Eliminating steps is obvious, but what about other features? Generally, older people would like to own a detached dwelling (69%) with three bedrooms (50%). Those in the 75+ group think that a two bedroom apartment is a good idea, probably because they can eliminate steps.Most importantly, they don’t want to be in the private rental market.
Older Australians are not planning ahead. If they are, they lack information on how to go about it, what to look for, and what their options are other than age-segregated housing. A significant proportion of respondents hadn’t thought about planning ahead for their living arrangements.
Plenty of material in this report for anyone interested in housing and older people. Title of the report is, Older Australians and the housing aspirations gap. You can download the Executive Summary and the Full Report separately.
Editors’s comment: Although home owners said their homes would support them in later life, this might not be an objective view. With a desire to stay put, can we rely on their self-assessment when they have so much emotional and financial investment in their current home?To be sure that homes will suit people throughout their life, every home needs to be designed for the life course. We need all new homes to be fit for that purpose.
Almost everyone likes a hug, and sometimes something a little more intimate. The Conversation has an article arguing that the NDIS should pay for sex workers. But being a resident in an aged care home should not be a barrier to having this kind of intimacy either. That’s whether it’s from a sex worker or a partner. An article in Aged Care Insite, Sex work in aged care more than just physical, discusses the issues of intimacy and “skin hunger”. For some clients of sex workers it is about being close and touching another human being rather than sexual intimacy. It’s about feeling the warmth of another body, feeling their heartbeat and breathing. When it comes down to it, older people have the right to access sex and intimacy services just like anyone else. However, those who live in their own homes might be in a better position than those in an aged care facility. Time for policies on this aspect of aged care to be universally designed?
A series of workshops with older people in UK revealed they are likely to welcome autonomous vehicles. The workshops also gave participants time to think about some of the implications, both negative and positive. Accessibility was a key factor. Declining vision and hearing, as well as dexterity issues such as arthritis, were mentioned in relation to touch screens. Being able to stop for a toilet, room for a pet and for shopping or luggage, and where to leave the vehicle at the end of the trip were factors that designers need to consider. There’s good information about older people and their reasons for travel, and how autonomous vehicles might enhance their ability to get out and about and socialise.
Editor’s note: Too many people are thinking about drivers and self-driving vehicles when in fact, fully automated vehicles are self-passenger-ing. That is, no-one is driving, so everyone is a passenger.
The graphic from the article shows factors older people thought about when making a journey: toilets, luggage space, route choice, refuelling, journey time, leaving vehicle at destination, and road conditions.
A city only for children and older people and all other age groups are welcome on visitor passes? What would such a city look like? A good question because having a visitor pass to your own city is what it feels like to groups who have not been considered in the design. The article, Diversity and belonging in the city comes from the Urban Design and Mental Health Journal. Erin Sharp Newton.poses various human perspectives on the city, urban form, architecture and design. A somewhat philosophical piece, but a step away from the usual thinking.
Older people are getting left behind in this digital world, especially if they are women and don’t live in a major city. The Conversation reports on the Australian Digital Inclusion Index(ADII) which measures which social groups benefit the most from digital connection, and which ones are being left behind. The score is based on access, affordability and ability to manage digital devices. While regional areas don’t have the same access to internet services as cities, there are programs that can help older people get internet-savvy. Telstra has its Tech Savvy Seniors program and the federal government has a Be Connected Program, and there is the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association. There are others listed in the article including an internet cafe set up by Umbrella Multicultural Community Care. The title of the article in The Conversation is, The digital divide: small, social programs can help get seniors online.
Walkability is discussed as the solution to keeping people active and engaged in their community. I have heard it said by health enthusiasts that we “have to have steps and stairs because that is good exercise”. Well it might be for some, but not for others. A research study on stairs and older people concludes that the presence of stairs “may deter older persons (and others) from walking outdoors.” The study was a systematic review of the literature. The full article is available online from BMC Public Health. Or you can download the PDF. The title is “Examining the relationships between walkability and physical activity among older persons: what about stairs?” by Nancy Edwards and Joshun Dulai.
Signalling the right way to go has to account for cognitive abilities, visual acuity, and spatial awareness. As people age some of these abilities decline. Consequently, considering the needs of this group in wayfinding design will make wayfinding easier for everyone. Mishler and Neider have identified five key points and explain them in detail in their article. They are:
Distinctiveness: the information should have cues that are informative to the route and can be distinguished from the surroundings.
Consistency and standardisation: information overload can be avoided with the consistent placement, size, colour and shape of signage.
Simplicity: limiting each sign to three or four units of information, because people tend to glance rather than read, and avoid visual clutter.
Isolation: keep the signs away from other visual clutter to help focus attention in the right place.
Reassurance: letting people know they are still on the correct route especially if the destination is a long way from the directional sign.
The title of the article is, “Improving Wayfinding for Older Users with Selective Attention Deficits”, in Ergonomics in Design. Here is part of their conclusion:
“Because maps and other layout information may not be easy for older adults to use, providing environmental support through wayfinding signage might be the best way to mitigate these difficulties. However, visual selective attention, which is needed to find and read a sign, declines in old age, which makes it particularly important to adhere strictly to certain guidelines for signage design.
Adhering closely to the principles of distinctiveness, consistency and standardization, simplicity, isolation, and reassurance should help not only to improve wayfinding performance for all users but also to reduce the performance gap between older and younger users.
Providing age-inclusive signage could help to maintain high mobility in older adults, prevent them from becoming isolated from their communities, and therefore help to avoid the mental and physical health issues that tend to be comorbid with age-related isolation. Age-inclusive signage design is therefore an increasingly important topic in an aging population.”
Is it time to retire the word “retirement”? Does it have the same meaning now as it did 30-40 years ago? Ending paid work, especially if it wasn’t enjoyable, makes the idea of a permanent holiday a dream come true. But is it? For those who are not the retiring type, the notion of being on holiday for up to 40 years is not something they relish. They want to keep going past the nominated pensionable age. So this area has no one-size-fits-all solutions. But one thing common to all, is having the ability to get out and about and access everyday activities and be welcome everywhere, and to have a home that accommodates issues of ageing. That is, let’s have more universal design rolled out so we can have the choice to do what we want as we age. The BBC webpage has an interesting story about a 106 year old man who continues his medical work on a voluntary basis. Examples of centenarians still working include a barber, who has beencutting people’s hair for 95 years, and aYouTube star aged 107, who teaches her million followers how to cook dishes such as fried emu egg.
In 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.
Alternative to what? you might ask. An Alternative Age-Friendly Handbook, with acknowledgement to the WHO’s work on age-friendly cities, takes a different approach to creating age-friendly urban places and spaces. Focusing on small scale age-friendly urban actions the handbook takes the reader through some useful thinking processes. First, it avoids the language of “apocalyptic demography” where an ageing population is described in terms of disaster and catastrophe. Then it moves on to the participatory approaches that have evolved over the last ten years. “This handbook is, thus, intended for these ‘Other’ urban practitioners who have not, as yet, necessarily engaged with the ‘urban ageing agenda’ and is offered here less as a prescriptive guidance (a how-to on Age-friendliness) and more as a portable reference to inspire critical reflection, action and possible intervention.”
A refreshing presentation of a handbook – not the classic “how to” format. Rather a creative “think about…” While this is from the perspective of older people, much of the thinking and many of the processes apply to all age groups. It looks like a long document, but that is because it is in large print. An easy and engaging read. Published by the University of Manchester Library.