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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

5 things worse then dying

5 things more scary than dying 

It’s reasonably well-known that many people fear public speaking more than they fear dying.  However, as we age, a number of other fears enter our consciousness beyond the sense of foreboding, dread, or denial that can occur as we age.

A bonus of ageing is that we commonly celebrate another decade passing.  Whether that celebration involve a party, an adventure, or a quiet dinner at home with a loved one or friends. We’ve lived another 10 years!  However, the celebrations are usually for the life we’ve lived, not the life before us.

Who celebrates a 50th, 60th, 70th or 80th birthday because of what they’ve experienced and because of your enthusiasm for the next decade? Compare this feeling to the experience of celebrating an 18th or 21st.  Generally, these birthdays are celebrated as a milestone because they represent a turning point in our life.  A time when we can look forward to new and exciting experiences and adventures.  What can we possibly look forward to in our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond?  Isn’t this a time when “it’s all downhill from here”?

No.

Well, it doesn’t have to be.

As this well known quote so succinctly states

“If it’s going to be.  It’s up to me.”   

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, it’s time to re-think how we look forward to, think, and plan for our later years.

5 things scarier than dying

In a recent survey of baby boomers conducted by Three Sisters Group, we discovered that this age group found these 5 things more scary than dying:

1. Physical and/or cognitive decline

2. Nursing homes

3. Retirement villages

4. Loneliness

5. Being like our parents

The question is:  If we’re afraid of these things, what are we doing about it?

The reality is, physical exercise combined with good diet and a healthy lifestyle (not smoking, low alcohol intake) are the two things most likely to make the biggest difference to our lives.  Furthermore, just these two ideas could influence whether or not a nursing home becomes a reality or simply an unfounded fear.

There’s so much to look forward to as we become older.  In fact, one study (1) has shown that our life satisfaction in our 60’s and beyond is equivalent to when we were teenagers!  As a friend shared with me, being physically active and not playing the age card are essential to enjoying our later life.  And Jane Goodall simply doesn’t think about ageing.

Of course planning everything in our life isn’t necessary either.  It’s really about our level of enthusiasm for what we’re doing and what might happen in the future.  I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me that she always carried her passport with her wherever she was in Australia just in case a friend called asking her if she’d like to go overseas with them.

And if you’re wondering … there was a time she spontaneously went on a cruise and asked her friend in Perth to pack her bag for her and she’d meet her in Sydney at the cruise ship (she was in Darwin) .  Unfortunately she did end up in a nursing home – despite her best efforts to live a very full life. At least she maximised her able years to the best of her ability.

 

Source:

(1) Qu, L., & de Vsus, D. (2015). Life satisfaction across life course transitions (Australian Family Trends No.8). Melbourne: Australian Insitute of Family Studies.

 

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Three sisters group

3 reasons why Baby Boomers are ignored

Right now approximately 15% of Australia’s population is over 65.

By 2050, the number of people over 65 is forecast to increase to over 20% of the total population.

Furthermore, Baby Boomers will be the single largest consumer of products and services in the future according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute released last year (2016). In their report, McKinsey suggests that any organisation that ignored this consumer, did so at their peril.

In fact, compared to previous generations, Baby Boomers are …
– cashed up;
– technology literate;
– fitter and healthier.

They are also bigger spenders than Millenials.

Given these facts, why are Baby Boomers ignored?

 

3 Reasons Why Baby Boomers are Ignored

  1. Lack of understanding.Young people dominate marketing departments, advertising, and PR agencies. They generally don’t understand Baby Boomers and simply aren’t aware of the opportunity they represent.
  2. Lack of insights.Organisations don’t know what they don’t know. There is a severe lack of knowledge and understanding of people in this age range if age brackets in surveys finish at 55, 60 or 65 – as outlined in our white paper.
  3. Legacy approaches to marketing.Market growth has historically come from younger generations. The Baby Boomers were those younger generations. They were the post-war boom for baby products, then young family products and services, then older family products and services and so on.  Baby boomers are now over 50.  They became older.  Not old.  Simply older.  Organisations seem to have ignored this fact.

 

Understanding Baby Boomers

The first step to understanding Baby Boomers is to let go of assumptions.

For example, in one conversation with older people recently, a gentleman in his 60’s said that he knew younger people would see him walking down the street and think “there goes an old codger”.  His problem with the label was that it wasn’t how he felt and therefore didn’t consider it relevant.  He considered himself fit, healthy, and actively engaged with the world – despite his grey hair, wrinkles, and slower pace of walking. How we may perceive a person with these characteristics probably differs significantly to how they perceive themselves.

Looking to dive deeper? Download our White Paper to get a deeper sense of Boomers.

Filled with facts gathered from around the world, and sharing insights from our own proprietary research, this Paper reveals the impact of ageism and the basis of the opportunity available to astute businesses that embrace this ever-growing age group.

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What does this mean for business?

Organisations seeking to reach this market must:

  1. Undertake relevant research to gain insights into the needs and wants of Baby Boomers for the products and services offered.
  2. Question possible assumptions and stereotypes of the over 50’s by internal staff and external suppliers.
  3. Educate staff about this generation.  Education can occur in a number of ways including training, reverse mentoring employment programs, intergenerational design teams, or ongoing engagement with older people through community groups.

To explore the potential of the over 50’s it is vital that an organisation investigates the market for insights.  Doing so identifies opportunities providing the knowledge and basis to innovate for success. Investigative techniques include bespoke research; customer journey maps; and key stakeholder interviews, to name a few.

The gap between older and younger generations is not necessarily as enormous as labels would suggest. And, when younger people meet older people their perceptions of old change.

If you’d like to know more, please contact us.