5 steps to housing innovation for the over 50’s

I want to stay at home. Forever. In fact, research by Three Sisters Group reveals that people are more afraid of going to a nursing home or a retirement village than dying. So what can architects, property developers, and the construction industry do to reimagine and reshape housing so that we can all remain at home, in our communities, forever?

The Housing Challenge

According to Ben Myers, Executive Director of the Property Council:

“Many existing homes just aren’t suitable for our seniors to ‘age in place’; often they are older, contain trip hazards and very difficult to maintain.”

Given the majority of older Australians are choosing to stay in their own homes, the housing sector clearly has the chance to re-imagine housing. In doing so, it will provide choice and facilitate us all to ‘age in place’. Whether that’s simple renovations, makeovers, or redesigning and re-thinking housing from the ground up.  Already, a number of Australian designers such as Happy Haus, Jigsaw, and Prebuilt have demonstrated innovation in design. These ready-made houses are affordable and attractive.

The next challenge and opportunity is to imagine and co-create affordable, equally clever design to adapt existing homes to accommodate the physical and cognitive difficulties encountered by many older people.

5 Steps to Innovation

Re-designing and re-imagining homes for older people to remain exactly where they are requires creativity and understanding. In fact, understanding the difficulties and desires of older people is key to creating housing that works. We use a co-design methodology to do this. The essential steps to success are:

  1. Research – Communicating with older people and gathering knowledge about their current experience of living at home.
  2. Key Stakeholder Engagement – Engaging all those involved in the design process and gathering their views on housing design for an ageing population.
  3. Co-creation – Bringing older people and designers together to co-create a design brief, prioritising essentials against “nice-to-have’s”.
  4. Co-design – Co-designing workshops provide a “hands-on” environment to imagine, draw, and make models of the possibilities.
  5. Testing – Testing housing design ideas in a virtual reality environment. Older people can “walk through” a home created from ideas generated during the co-design workshop. Doing so provides valuable feedback prior to pursuing the project.

Needless to say, affordability is crucial. Consequently, we can only realise success if the co-designed housing outcomes are reasonably priced. Of course, incorporating off-the-shelf products and technology where possible is essential. Creating a new ready-made product that’s specifically suited to home adaptation for older people is also conceivable.

The Result

Communities will change. And, older people will become woven into the fabric of what makes neighbourhoods great.

And what makes a neighbourhood great?

Lists abound, however, this Heart Foundation guide to ‘Creating Healthy Neighbourhoods’ neatly encapsulates the essentials: great open spaces; ability to walk and cycle; access to public transport; easy access to shops and transport; connected and safe streets; and, spaces where the community can meet – both in the open and in community centres.

The opportunity for Australian architects, designers, and builders to initiate and implement new ideas for housing so that we can stay at home forever is limitless.

Can Australia’s housing industry lead the way on housing for our ageing population? We know it’s possible.

If you’d like to unlock the growth potential for your business of housing for the over 50’s, contact us.

Photo by Stephen Crowley on Unsplash

Housing: On the edge of disruption?

It’s a well-known fact that Australia’s population is ageing. We’re living longer and healthier than at any other time in history. And increasingly, we’re choosing to stay in our own homes as we age.  So what does this mean for architects, builders, town planners, and developers? And how big is the opportunity really?

The Facts of the Matter

In 2056 approximately one in four Australians will be 65 years or older. By 2040 it’s predicted that 6.8 million people will be aged over 65 – compared to about half that in 2012 (3.2 million). With such a large number of people over 65, and increasingly living beyond 85, housing needs are a significant issue for us all to consider – governments, businesses, and individuals alike.

There is a view that suggests older people should “downsize” because they inefficiently occupy large homes and should free up housing stock. Whilst a large proportion of older people do have one or two spare rooms (over 40%), they don’t want to “downsize”. According to a report by the Productivity Commission, 76% of Australians 60+ consider their current home as the place they’d like to live out their retirement. ‘Home’ is also an asset that’s considered useful to assist with future difficult financial events.

The Opportunity

Given the increasing size of the ageing population,  and the desire for people to remain at home and in community, there’s an opportunity for architects, builders, town planners, and developers to get creative in housing design and adaptations. Of course, governments, councils, and policy makers also have a role. Australians don’t downsize and government incentives to encourage downsizing is considered pointless. The solutions don’t necessarily lie in downsizing.  The solutions lie in adaptation because for older people:

  • Familiarity of their living environment is important.
  • Neighbourhood is important.
  • Caring for their home matters. It provides purpose and meaning in a day.
  • Community connection matters.

Home is after all home.

The Global Landscape

Examples of redesigned and reimagined housing exist globally. These new models enable people to continue living happily in their own homes and neighbourhoods as they grow older. Some of the ideas also encourage intergenerational living.

Examples include: Germany’s Baugruppe – a ‘group build’ approach for housing complexes involving future residents at both the planning and building stages; Co-housing – an alternative that adapts single-dwelling suburban blocks to accommodate two or three smaller dwellings with some shared spaces; and, the familiar granny flat or laneway housing.

Increasingly, build-to-rent has become an attractive building model as it provides the opportunity for much longer tenure and more control for renters. With private rental housing predicted to become a more dominant share of the housing market in the future, leading developers such as Mirvac are now entering this market.

Collaborate For Success

Redesigning and reimagining the future of housing requires research. Participatory research. Involving conversations with consumers – both younger and older generations alike. These conversations provide insights about consumers’ lives. By talking with people, the housing industry gets the necessary insights to make living at home forever a practical possibility.

The key is incorporating this understanding with design possibilities not imagined or known by the consumer. After all, who thought we’d all want a smartphone? And the classic example from Henry Ford, who didn’t train horses to go faster; he built a car.

What will the housing industry build to change the landscape of living so that we can all stay at home? Forever.

Contact us to unlock the growth potential for your business of housing the over 50s.

Photo by Cindy Tang on Unsplash

Washed up jar of possibility with older workers

Are older workers considered washed up?

Few organisations have a strategic approach to managing their older workers. This issue persists despite research by Deloitte Access Economics that shows a 3 percent increase in the participation rate of workers over 55 could account for a $33 billion boost to Australia’s national economy.

The Challenge

Given the prevalence of age stereotypes in the workplace, there are some critical questions organisations need to ask:

  1. Do we understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of older workers?
  2. What are the attitudes and beliefs of younger workers towards ageing and older workers?
  3. What can we do to increase age diversity and meet the needs of all parties without negatively impacting the bottom line?

As Dr Rickwood suggests in her recent interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National, “HR policies and practices haven’t shifted to accommodate what is a burgeoning possibility in a workforce of older people”.

There are numerous examples of Australian companies that are already reaping the economic benefits of embracing an older workforce. The most well-known example being Bunnings Warehouse, which employs large numbers of older, highly-skilled tradespeople. No longer able to continue in physically demanding jobs, these people instead are offering a lifetime’s worth of expertise to Bunnings shoppers.

The Facts

According to the Age Discrimination Commissioner’s report ‘Willing to Work’, 12.7% of those aged 65 and over are in the labour force; however, this figure is expected to double by 2055.

Historically, we considered 60 or 65 to be the age at which we retired.  Or, for the financially savvy, we saw 55 years old to be “lucky”.

Unfortunately, this view of 65 as the age at which we retire largely remains. We dream of when the constraints of a workplace end, and travel and leisure beckon. However, increasingly, people are discovering that early retirement isn’t nearly as attractive as perceptions hold it to be. Indeed, many baby boomers see ‘retirement’ as a change of career.  It’s a time when they are able to enjoy more flexibility to pursue their passions and interests, whether paid or voluntary. For example, recent Australian of the Year, Graham Farquhar, revealed in an interview that he enjoyed being able to continue working in his area of expertise on an unpaid basis.  

According to research by MetLife (UK), 63% of over 50’s in their survey would consider re-training to stay working longer. There is also evidence to suggest that greater initiative is required by both older workers and businesses for training and re-skilling.

For example, organisations that invest in retention of their older, skilled workers are discovering higher organisational productivity. Similarly, it’s essential for all workers to continue to learn and educate themselves to remain relevant.

The Opportunity

Underpinning these burgeoning human resource issues is an absence of conversations with all staff – regardless of age – about their attitudes and beliefs towards ageing and remaining in the workforce beyond 50. It’s these conversations that can provide insights into how to create an open, all-age-friendly workplace environment and culture.

It is forecast that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t yet exist. By the end of the next decade there is also a predicted shortage of workers. These two facts alone suggest that now is the time to reshape the workforce. Through their human resource policies, organisations have the opportunity to redesign work and jobs to promote flexibility. From phased or partial retirement, role transfers, blended work, bridge employment to intergenerational job sharing.

Ultimately, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson, Age Discrimination Commissioner, reminds us: “Intergenerational offices do a lot better than ones fixated on just one age group”.

Does your organisation have its finger on the pulse of the over 50’s in the office?

If you would like to better understand the over 50’s, contact us.

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash