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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

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.

Addressing the Fear: Nursing Homes

The majority of older Australians do not move to a nursing home or accommodation for the aged. (5% or less of people between 75-84 and less than 30% 85+ move to cared accommodation.) However, for those in nursing homes, 33-45% of people 65+ and over 62% of those aged 85+ die in nursing homes each year. To avoid this frightening outcome, we all need to stop living the stereotype and change how we’re living. Through exercise, and by living a life full of purpose and meaning, we can increase the likelihood of leading a long healthy life without needing to go to a nursing home.

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

Shades of white

White is white.

Until you try to choose white paint.

If you’ve ever tried to choose white paint you’ll know just how tricky it is to choose the shade of white you’d like to paint a room or a house.

Ageing is the same.  Here’s why.

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I’ve had a reality check. Here it is …

I’m getting older. I know that. I’ve said for a long time that I plan to see 100 and beyond. And, I’m determined to age well. Age healthily. Age happily. Age productively. In community with like-minded people. I eschew the idea of a retirement village or nursing home. That’s not for me. I don’t do bingo. Have no interest in bingo. And group excursions or group events? I’ve never been a good groupie which is probably one of the reasons I won’t do cruises. I don’t like the idea of being told when to eat, what to eat or where to eat. However, there’s a ‘but’. Here it is …

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