Architectural community design better old age homes – In the recent past, there has been a shift in the demographics of the world population. The growth in the number of adults 65 years and older will double over the next 25 years, the older population is increasing while the younger population decreases due to various factors. Improved medical care for the elderly with extensive medical coverage has had a positive effect on their numbers as many more can live longer healthier lives. Improved medical care has also created an environment where the age of productivity has been pushed further into the future. People remain in the urban environment for longer as opposed to the time when past a certain age people would move into the country for retirement and pursue alternative activities such as farming and running farms. In the last 50 years, the birth rate has been on a steady decline with fewer births being recorded, this has been attributed to difficult economic times, improved education, and wider access to contraception. Many people are opting out of retirement and working far into their life, our bodies however slow down every year ever so slightly.
Old age is associated with increased wisdom however with limited time to carry out life lessons. Subject to wear and tear, our bodies are limited with time to what they can achieve. Old people are faced with various challenges; Physical and Mental. Decreased mobility increases the risk of slipping and falling. Incontinence and memory, hearing, and vision loss are also challenges faced during old age.
Due to the negative opinions around aging, the elderly are often abandoned and this culture is attributed to the fast-paced urban environment whose hostility pushes out the elderly. High rates of depression and loneliness have been recorded with the increase in industrialization. Creating integrated environments that can host both the younger and older generation would be a great place to start in efforts to bridge the generational gap between the elderly and the industrious fast-paced youth.
As we look into the past inspiration is limited, the elderly population now were active members of society when buildings existing today were being erected, and understand firsthand the phrase aging in place. Apart from wear and tear these buildings remain largely unaffected but the occupants were dealt with the unforgiving hand of time. Architects now are challenged to draw lessons from the shortcomings of the past and build on the initiatives that began.
Architectural community are challenged to design spaces that accommodate people of different capabilities to promote a more inclusive environment. Similarly, policymakers are pressured to pass laws that promote inclusive design. Building on the challenges that are faced by the elderly, architects can design according to what is needed. It should be as easy as; if it is too low raise it, if too high lower it. Rather than the popular option of the age-old home where the elderly lose touch with their families and society and society in turn loses this valuable resource in some cases the elderly receive sub-standard care and more often than not are left abandoned. Age-old homes are also not readily accepted in some communities due to the cultural perceptions behind them, in these cases, the elderly remain isolated also from their peers who are in a better position to relate to their present circumstances. Designing friendly communities where co-habitation is possible and as a result, the young can help the old and the old inspire the young. Changing the perceptions of society toward homes, and offering them to society as an integrated solution of assisted care rather than isolation with mediocre care and equipment.
When architectural community design homes for the elderly there are key points to consider but of most importance is a user-friendly design. Accessibility to these structures should be highly emphasized, wheelchair accessibility is rather difficult in places with narrow entrances, and stairs with steep inclines are difficult to navigate. Creating workspaces that are within reach reduces the likelihood of incidents. Safety is a concern when designing for the elderly as they are highly susceptible to accidents as they go about their day therefore measures should be put in place to deal with these factors. Without supervision, people with issues with their memory may get lost and some may get injured with no way of getting assistance.
The site around a building is just as important as the building itself as it lends the site context. Designing the landscape to encourage activity through the provision of greenery and lawn areas where simple physical activities may be carried out. The presence of greenery is directly linked to mental and physical well-being because this environment has been noted to provide a sense of calm.
The elderly are usually combated with inactivity which further aggravates various physical ailments linked to mobility, therefore the activity and event-driven design provide plausible solutions. Rather than strict and rigid grids architects should opt for flexible open-plan designs that encourage movement even within the same space. Couple with great natural lighting the inside becomes a continuation of the outside.
Architectural community design multi-use spaces composed of accommodation, a learning center, a market, and a form of open space can be used as templates for integrated living where small cities are created, these independent eco-systems offer different spaces for interaction for the elderly and they are encouraged to remain active by engaging in various activities in these learning centers. These spaces when designed with a wide and clear viewing range create an independent environment for the elderly to engage in their activities with overbearing attention from attendants. Activity regardless of how small and mundane makes all the difference as no one in the greater society gets left behind by engaging smaller communities. The green spaces can include simple gardening activities where the products can be incorporated into the diet of the residents, giving the residents a sense of achievement.
The transition from independence in your youth to having to rely on caregivers is not an easy change. Even when reliant the elderly require independence and personal space, this can be achieved by decentralizing the services offered and the spaces in an age-old home. Giving the freedom to choose where to conduct activities maintains their independence even while living communally.
Staying clear away from the sterile, hospital-like environments that don’t allow the residents to create a home. This may take a toll on mental and physical health. Architects should design spaces that are reminiscent of home, this offers the elderly comfort in their sunset years. Colorful spaces create a great environment for relaxation and activity.
- AIP Conference Proceedings 1839, 020126 (2017); https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4982491 Published Online: 08 May 2017
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