Have you seen the YouTube video of older people in a driverless car? The reaction is priceless! Eugene recently spent a day immersed in the design of age friendly housing and communities at the Housing Care 21 conference in Birmingham. The room full of practitioners, academics and experts considered and discussed the opportunities and the challenges of design, development and management of places for older people and those experiencing dementia.
Greg Shaw a Director at the International Federation on Ageing provided his experience from Toronto with a particularly interesting point on the benefits to people and the system of providing more restorative care and re-enablement programmes which help people to return to independent living.
Julia Park, Chair of the RIBA Housing Group noted the absurdity of the stark binary choice for older people. To live with family (which may not be practical) or to live with a group of strangers and encouraged us to consider more attractive options of living with friends or those with shared interest. She showed some examples of great design for older people.
The workshop session on the potential of digital technology highlighted the importance of the end user experience driving the technology and not the other way around. We got an insight into “The Internet of Things” and the scope for this to monitor, analyse and control data within care housing. There was significant concern for the practicalities of keeping up with the pace of technological change, the privacy issues and the need for robust regulations, if the substantial benefits of technology are to be realised.
There was dismay at the continuing unacceptable prevalence of ageism in society, a view which came across very strongly at our older people Knowledge Café sessions last least year as part of our research into Design for an Ageing Population.
The design of the physical environment and housing plays a significant role in creating an age friendly neighbourhood and we will be applying many of these principles to our existing and future projects.