Coming to a “certain age” that now receives weather alerts via text when it gets too hot, reminds me that a big chunk of us are arriving at an age formerly thought as retired, old and inactive. We know that’s not true. My mother lived in the active community of Laguna Woods Village with 18,500 residents 50+ up to 100+. The architecture spoke to their adjusted, yet active lifestyles – single levels, more gardens and easy to navigate outdoor spaces, community gardens as a gathering place. This started as a post about the beauty in aging architecture and planning what you want it to become decades later or even centuries later. We’ll still write that, but we wanted to talk about architecture for an aging population.
The initial thoughts are that of practical additions: ramps, elevators, lifts, grab bars, show seats, wide hallways. Commercial and public buildings need to follow codes for bathroom stalls, kitchens – accessibility. Let’s take it further. Let’s talk about incorporating beauty.
The Portland, Oregon Memory Garden is using outdoor space to evoke memories and bring joy to those visiting. Designed for Alzheimer’s patients, there are plantings that evoke childhood memories. Many plant varieties that were common in older gardens are featured to spark pleasant memories of the past. The rich botanical collection provides four seasons of sensory stimulation, including plants that are interesting to look at, touch and smell.
Eric Baldwin wrote a beautiful article showcasing several designs of communities for those of a certain age and older. These communities include rehab and medical facilities, gyms, gardens and common spaces. The thoughtful design of these places around the world are also a statement to the respect for an aging population and recognition that they aren’t looking forward to a sedearty lonely life. Wouldn’t you want to live in these places? One of our favorites is Walumba Elders Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects, Warmun, Australia. It was built to serve the remote Aboriginal Community of Warrmarn as a focal point that brings people together. Providing both self-care and high-level care to residents, the project rises above the natural ground level as a kind of conceptual bridge between generations.Another favorite he showcases is Het Prieel by Borren Staalenhoef Architects, Naarden, Netherlands. The Het Prieel was made as a small, delicate pavilion financed with crowdfunding. The non-religious space is an area for contemplation and conversation outside the “hospital” wall and a joyful object for the community. Eric states:
The design world needs to rethink elderly architecture. Today, the vast majority of countries have a higher proportion of older citizens than young people. Architects and planners must begin moving beyond end-of-life care and nursing facilities to consider the new design challenges posed by aging adults who desire active, interconnected lifestyles. Embracing networks of family and community, a new generation of elderly adults are looking to maintain independence and freedom through mobility, self-governance and third spaces.
Exploring relationships between the built environment and human longevity, the following collection examines contemporary architecture designed for elderly adults. Featuring a range of programs and typologies, the projects each take a different look at how evolving age trends will dramatically shape our future. Together, they begin to reveal how designers can begin building new life cycles and rethink the architecture of aging.
Covering the interior has also come a long way since the sterile environments of convalescent homes and group homes of the mid-century. Food service and dining designs has shifted towards hospitality, providing a sense of activity and destination for residents. Communities are increasingly offering a wide array of dining options beyond traditional formal dining. Following current dining trends around the world for active people, including seniors, grab-and-go stations and interactive cafes – the choices are limitless. Exhibition cooking stations have moved chefs out of the kitchen and on to café serving lines, fostering connections between staff and residents in these newer communities. These dynamic food service spaces are often enhanced with unique ceiling forms, multi-level lighting, and a wide range of finish materials. We are definite fans of unique ceiling forms and multi-level lighting.