Designing for an aging population

Designing for an aging population add

An aging population is forcing New Zealand designers to rethink the existing model of aged care facilities.

According to Statistics New Zealand the number of people aged 65 and over (65+) has doubled since 1980, and is likely to double again by 2036. The largest growth will occur between 2011 and 2036, as the baby boomers (those born from 1946 to 1965) move into the 65+ age group.

For many years large, homogenous buildings designed to care for all aspects of retirement were considered the norm, in recent years the emergence of boutique community focused villages has seen an improvement to the industry's offering.

Award winning architectural designer and ADNZ Professional Member, Robert Weir of Weir Architecture says that an educated aging population has led to this significant change.

"Generally people are downsizing earlier, they are more educated about what they want and need from a facility and they are choosing their own destiny, as opposed to waiting for their children to make the tough calls later on."

"This means designers and developers now need to consider the resident - the person first. They have to listen to the market and not repeat the mistakes of the past. People want to live in communities - not be segregated because of their age. It is a really dynamic industry with multiple factors to consider - different age groups, cultures, capabilities, levels of health, wealth and desires," says Robert.

Statistics New Zealand findings indicate population ageing will contribute to large increases in the number of people living in more communal, non-private dwellings (including retirement homes). For example the number of people aged over 80 living in non-private dwellings is projected to roughly double between 2006 and 2031, from 23,000 to 43,000.

It is easy to see from these figures that aged care is a growing and potentially booming industry. Olive Estate Lifestyle Village in Nelson is a $55-$60 million dollar project that Robert Weir is currently working on. With 107 villas, 30 terrace houses, a major care facility, dementia care and hospital and community centre, Robert sees the village as the future of aged care.

"It has to be about building communities. The future of the industry is to have these villages built into the community - so residents can see children riding their bikes, people walking their dogs and they can meet and greet people walking by.

"Community centres within villages contribute greatly to the wellness of residents and the success of the project. These centres are like country clubs. They are bustling with people. They have bars, restaurants, spas/saunas, theatre rooms and sports facilities - they are designed for people with active lifestyles. At the end of the day, as a designer I ask myself, where do I want to live when I retire? I don’t want to be scared of retiring and with facilities like these I won't be," says Robert.

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