Older people have different needs compared to the younger generations. They likewise use spaces differently. Hence, creating spaces for ageing communities will not only benefit today’s elderly, but also those who are going to use them in the future.
According to various studies on geriatric wellbeing, architectural design has an essential role in promoting elderly health. “The smallest residential design retrofits can have potentially life-saving impacts (on the elderly),” says Karen Kubey, an urban planner who specialises in housing and health. “From preventing falls through something as simple as choosing the right carpet to designing welcoming shared spaces to help address social isolation, architects and interior designers have the chance to improve or even extend the lives of seniors.”
How architectural design affects the lives of the elderly
As they grow older, senior citizens begin to show signs of physical weakness. They no longer walk as fast, hold objects with a tighter grip, or see distance with a clear vision. Their current environment may not be able to accommodate their changing needs; worse, it may put them at risk of injury or life-threatening conditions.
Subtle design changes in architecture and interiors may drastically improve the lives of ageing individuals. With the right design, they can live comfortably and safely in their homes and surrounding environments.
Singapore architects look at several factors when designing spaces for the elderly. These include:
Mechanisms that are easier to operate – since the elderly are prone to reduced mobility, they may experience difficulty turning knobs and similar devices. It may be better to choose door levers over doorknobs, and light switches with rocker panels instead of a toggle switch. These options allow more natural muscle movement without requiring too much effort.
Accessibility – despite their physical capacities deteriorating as they age, most of today’s elderly prefer to continue doing their usual activities independently. In this regard, Singapore architects apply safety mechanisms in pathways and structures to aid their mobility. Senior citizens get to enjoy their routine activities, but this time they have available railings or structures to support their freedom of movement.
Health and wellbeing – designing spaces must accommodate elements that promote better health and wellbeing among the elderly. Environments should be able to encourage them to go out to reduce their feeling of isolation.
It is common for the elderly to feel lonely as they get older. Hence, they need spaces where they can socialise with other people, especially their peers. Public spaces can be converted into recreational areas for ageing communities. This makes good sense since the elderly are no longer into strenuous physical activities, they prefer to sit and relax, but not feel isolated.
Establishing green spaces is also recommended for ageing communities since they offer a clean and refreshing environment. Good examples of green spaces are gardens in landed properties or natural parks in public areas.
Green spaces likewise shelter them from the heat. The elderly are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke due to extreme weather conditions and having green spaces can help minimise those risks.