"Sustainability," trending big-time in the design world, is a word that coats all it touches with an air of freshness and innovation. However, what sustainability truly aims for is independence from such trends, opting rather for longevity and the promise of a healthy and dependable environment well into the future. "Future," though, includes more than just self-sufficiency of the environment, as with time comes... age. And, as much as we may fight it, we will all be old one day.
As baby boomers are steadily aging, the senior citizen demographic is on the verge of a rapid inflation. Combine that with a population that is generally living longer, and we start to realize the urgent need for a "Geropolis," as Matthias Hollwich, organizer of the New Aging conference on aging and architecture and co-founder of Architizer, called it.
Today is Senior Citizens Day (or, perhaps, Future Selves Day?), so we decided to revisit some of the issues that face designers when designing for the elderly. We talk so much about designing a city to leave behind for our children, but we mustn't forget about the step in between—designing for our aging selves.
Although moving and socializing will get harder, that doesn't necessarily entail being ostracized or hospitalized. Instead, the environment should focus on encouraging a complete state of wellness that remains stimulating and facilitates independence. Below is a collection of exemplary architecture that illustrates a healthy way of designing for the aging (pointers taken from Carina Ngai's lecture at SXSW).
This facility follows a meandering path that rises and falls with the surrounding topography. Combined with a roof that is also accessible through the undulating landscape, the design encourages (gentle) movement.
This playful building is integrated into the countryside, and the seamless transitions between inside and out encourage the inhabitation of both.
This tower provides space for community activities, including a rooftop garden where architects hope residents will be able to interact with their grandchildren. These opportunities for chance encounters expose residents to new situations and keep the environment stimulating.
Full of social gathering spaces, this residence is begging its inhabitants to make some new buddies.
It is important to also cater for those who do not want to live communally. This house is designed for an elderly couple—their independence is facilitated by the structure.
Designed specifically for the interaction of the elderly couple with their grandchildren, this house encourages grandparents to play an active role in the family. By the way, that wooden grid system was built to be climbed by energetic kids.
With the hippie generation approaching the senior citizen bracket, we also need to prepare for a change in the mindset of the elderly. This complex was designed with the flower children in mind, providing them with a lively place for interaction with their peers.
Despite age, there is no reason why people should be limited to staying in one building. This residence is intended for a mix of inhabitants and also includes a senior citizen "daycare," allowing them to hang out with their friends during the day and return to their families at night.
With no doors or corridors through much of the space, Santa Rita Geriatric Centre emphasizes optimism while also providing the security of being comfortably sheltered from the outside world.
BCQ's Day Centre For The Elderly aims to increase the visitors' comfort by using familiar, warm materials and finishes throughout the building.