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UK’s Office of National statistics shows population over 65 in UK will rise from about 18% to 25% by 2050. These numbers will reshape societies, cities and the way we behave as population.

Design has a central role to play to take advantage from this mega trend and mitigate its impact on the youngest part of society. Architects and designers need to shift the focus from what is important to sell to what actually satisfy the needs of the elderly.

In this period of forced-isolation we are all experiencing what is usual in the lives of many older and disabled people: lockdown is a simulation of what society offers nowadays to the older generation and we are realising there are some aspects we should rethought and improve. Moreover, the Coronavirus pandemic is showing how care homes are unsuitable and vulnerable places where thousands of deaths are occurring: these structures with a high concentration of elderly people were not ready to face a health emergency of this magnitude.

The evolution of design for an ageing population is supported by psychological and human research because the permanence of elderly people in their home or, if this is impossible, residential units should be integrated in a context of inclusiveness to guarantee the highest well-being for the elderly.

The key is to design new forms of living where we can combine the home environment, health care and daily needs with a lively relationship condition, within a framework of economic sustainability.

Mini lifts by Tyssenkrupp

In recent years we are witnessing a growing interest in design specialized housing options for older people under the push of a greater awareness about aging population’s diversity. This new trend is inspiring many projects to create retirement living experiences in the centre of towns and not out on greenfield sites in the middle of nowhere: the idea to let people living the last part of their lives in connection with other people and not in closed communities. It’s fundamental to understand the needs, aspirations and circumstances of older people before we build: architects have a great responsibility in the creation of modern alternative of housing where old people don’t feel the loneliness.

Especially in northern Europe, there are models of cohousing and co-residences where cooperation produce benefits for all. The inhabitants are actively involved in the organization of the daily life to promote active aging and social inclusion of the elderly.

Designers and planners are inspired by the needs of an aging population to improve the quality of life, break down architectural barriers, restore freedom of movement and motivation to the elderly with reduced mobility.

The distinctive feature of new housing solutions is flexibility: their configuration and size can be varied over time to follow the evolving needs of the population.

Kitchen designed for elderly people

Shower designed for elderly people

Forward thinking contemporary design has to find solutions to increase the housing’s accessibility. New ideas are spreading to reorganize each room in order to have a positive impact on the comfort and the mobility through different spaces.

Technology will be a fundamental support to make the management of the home easier: for example, there are devices front door locks, lighting, or thermostats that you can control with a smartphone.

To end the speech, architects and designers are facing a stimulating challenge for the future: creating functional housing where the elderly can live the retirement without social and physical restrictions.

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