‘Ageing in neighbourhood’: what seniors want instead of retirement villages and how to achieve it


Caroline Osborne, University of the Sunshine Coast and Claudia Baldwin, University of the Sunshine Coast

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for connection to our local community and the health challenges of the retirement village model.

We know that, as we age, most people prefer to stay in their own homes and communities instead of moving to retirement villages. Some have gone so far as to say retirement villages have had their day. However, the reality is not quite that simple.




Read more:
Retire the retirement village – the wall and what’s behind it is so 2020


The challenge is that seniors are not well informed on what they could demand of the market. Planning schemes could also do more to create incentives for the changes we need now.

The challenges are complex and urgent as the global population grows and ages. Yet our housing supply reveals a bad case of the tail wagging the dog. Finely tuned financial models and development processes are driving the housing products available in the market.

What’s needed instead is adaptable housing and neighbourhoods to help people as they move through life’s stages.

Are the days of the retirement village numbered?

Many individuals and families struggle to find the right “fit” between the supported living options of retirement villages, independent living lifestyle villages and staying in the (often unsuitable) family home as their needs change.

Such villages offer viable products in the market as an important part of the housing mix. The models have some advantages in that they:

  • are thoroughly costed and provide a good return for developers

  • offer a range of living options to suit most budgets and level of care needs

  • promise security, activities and a sense of community.

Seniors are best placed to say what they need

However, our research with seniors in south-east Queensland revealed a desire to “age in neighbourhood” and to have neighbourhoods with a mix of ages and building forms.

Planning schemes could drive this now by giving priority to, and providing incentives for, sustainable and accessible housing close to transport and other services.

We worked with more than 42 seniors in south-east Queensland to design a series of housing types. These were based on what they told us were important to them in a home and a neighbourhood.

The table below summarises the key features that they told us make a neighbourhood and a home a good place to live as they age.

The resulting principles and housing types paint a vivid picture of what older people in a subtropical environment find appealing and supportive as they age.

Many participants preferred an accessible home on one level. Ideally, it should have two bedrooms and a study. This means it can easily be adapted to changing needs.

An essential component for our participants was to take advantage of the mild climate by having both private and shared outdoor spaces. Here they could socialise, relax and enjoy pleasant outlooks from the home. Cutting planning requirements for car parks by 50% could add more shared outdoor space and cut housing and living costs for residents.

Homes should be sustainably designed. This means they capture natural light and prevailing breezes for through ventilation, take into account privacy and noise considerations in higher-density areas, and have solar and rainwater harvesting systems to save resources and money.

Also important was a neighbourhood with a variety of green, clean and safe public open spaces. This includes flat, well-maintained and shaded walkways for exercise and easy access to shops, facilities and public transport.

We then showed how all these housing types could be incorporated into one Brisbane suburb, as the image below illustrates. This would mean seniors could remain in their neighbourhood in more suitable housing, reducing the stress of moving to unfamiliar surroundings.

How to make it happen

As with all complex challenges, everyone has a role to play in achieving these goals. However, local government planning reforms can act as a catalyst for the market to change and innovate.

Planning schemes could, for example, reduce application fees for developments that include accessible or universal design within 400-800 metres of key services, facilities and transport.

Carpark allocation could also be uncoupled from housing in locations close to transport and services. This would reduce the cost of housing and encourage greater used of active (cycling, walking, etc) and public transport.

This research clearly signals to local and state government, developers and small-scale property investors how houses, duplexes and mid-rise apartments could be put together in an age-friendly suburb. This transition to mixed-density infill development would support what we call “ageing in neighbourhood”.

Further, this research suggests planning “priority zones” could give the market the incentive to invest in the future-focused neighbourhood development it should be providing to keep people connected to their community.


This article was co-authored by Phil Smith, Associate Director of Deicke Richards at the time of publication of the research report. Phil Smith is Director of Gomango Architects.The Conversation

Caroline Osborne, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Office of Community Engagement, University of the Sunshine Coast and Claudia Baldwin, Professor, Urban Design and Town Planning, Co-director, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Retire the retirement village – the wall and what’s behind it is so 2020



Jemima Rosevear, Author provided

Rosemary Jean Kennedy, Queensland University of Technology and Laurie Buys, The University of Queensland

Retirement villages – walled, gated and separate seniors’ enclaves – have had their day. The word “retirement” is redundant and engagement between people of all ages is high. That’s how participants in the Longevity By Design Challenge envisage life in Australia in 2050.

Their challenge was to identify ways to prepare and adapt Australian cities to capitalise on older Australians living longer, healthier and more productive lives. Their vision, outlined in this article, offers a positive contrast to much of the commentary on “ageing Australia”.




Read more:
We’re not just living for longer – we’re staying healthier for longer, too


We have been repeatedly warned about a looming “crisis” when by 2050 one in four Australians will be 65 or older. They have been portrayed as dependent non-contributors, unable to take care of themselves. This scenario of doom is based on underlying assumptions that everyone over 65 wants to, can or should stop any kind of productive contribution to Australia.

What if these assumptions are wrong?

The longevity bonus

Australians’ average life expectancy is well into our 80s. That represents a 30-year longevity “bonus” since the Age Pension was introduced in 1909 when average life expectancy was 55.

Increases in the average life expectancy of Australian men and women since 1890.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, CC BY



Read more:
Retiring at 70 was an idea well ahead of its time


Now, older people are healthier, working for longer – whether paid, volunteering, flexible, part-time, full-time or launching start-ups – or are in learning programs. By 2030 all of the baby boomers will have turned 65. At this time Generation X will start their contribution to the expanding older cohort.

Australian society will be better positioned to navigate this future if we make the most of the significant opportunities baby boomers present. They are living much longer, want to remain productive and engaged throughout their adult lives, and have a valuable cache of knowledge and skills.

One way to support economic and social participation is to reconsider the factors – physical, regulatory and financial – that determine how our buildings, suburbs and streets are organised.

Conventional urban development models rely on short-term development finance. It delivers suburban cities of individual houses with a need for private transportation. For many households (not just seniors) distance and lack of mobility are barriers to participation, resulting in isolation and loneliness.




Read more:
1 million rides and counting: on-demand services bring public transport to the suburbs


Making the most of life after 65

The Longevity by Design Challenge brought new perspectives to preparing and adapting Australian cities to capitalise on the “longevity” phenomenon over coming decades. The challenge asked:

How do we best leverage the extra 30 years of life and unleash the social and economic potential of people 65+ to contribute to Australia’s prosperity?

In February 2020, 121 professionals (of all ages) from 60 built environment design and senior living organisations, along with several older people, took part in the challenge. They explored how baby boomers will change the landscape of living, learning, working and playing. Sixteen cross-disciplinary creative teams considered what longevity could look like in this new environment in which buildings and neighbourhoods are remade.

Multi-generational, cross-disciplinary teams at work on the Longevity by Design Challenge.
The University of Queensland, Author provided

Good design begins with people. Together the participants concluded that designing for older people is actually “inclusive design”. Everyone wants the same things for a good life: autonomy and choice, purpose, family and friends, good health and financial security.




Read more:
From 8 to 80: designing adaptive spaces for an ageing population


Teams were presented with one of three locations representing typical middle and outer suburbs. They were challenged to transform buildings and neighbourhoods to make the most of longevity opportunities.

The teams used principles of social and physical connectedness with the aim of increasing choices and improving circumstances for people at all stages of life. Key design priorities were “mix” – of places, uses, people and generations – and “heart”, which placed people at the centre of the narrative.

Suggested approaches included:

  • building walkable neighbourhoods that reduce distances between homes and services

  • converting typical house blocks to “super blocks” where multiple generations can live

Superblocks created by converting three houses into five multi-generational residences.
Architectus with Feros Care, Aspire 4 Life, S Wyeth and M Denver, Author provided
  • adopting finance development models using long-term capital, rather than short-term debt, for greater financial and community returns.
The Longevity Urban CommunitY concept (LUCY) of the sort that might evolve using long-term equity. Clusters of multi-residential buildings with a mix of commercial and community uses at ground level form a network of pedestrian streets, parks and plazas. Housing design blends individual needs for privacy, and collective needs for community.
Deicke Richards, Vee Design, Pradella Property Ventures, N Whichelow, Condev Construction and Bolton Clarke. Images: Peter Richards, Deicke Richards, Author provided

Neighbourhoods could be retrofitted over 30 years. This would require changes to local government planning codes and innovations by the finance sector.

Other teams designed interconnected environments using links between natural, built and technological assets. They designed spaces to enable people over 65 to continue to make creative and productive contributions.

By creating inclusive infrastructure, such as closely connected living and learning “micro-neighbourhoods”, people of all ages remain the “heart” of the economic, social and cultural life of communities. A mobility “ecosystem”, including automated buses and electric ride sharing, could connect specialist knowledge and skill centres to local hubs.

Tek Trak embraces autonomous and electric vehicle technology to radically alter the way.
we get around.

Elevation Architecture, Urban Strategies and Milanovic Neale, Author provided

Making inclusive neighbourhoods happen

While autonomous vehicle technology might provide more equal access to mobility and transportation, the designers warned that transforming conventional settings of houses and cars to walkable neighbourhoods and autonomous vehicles will be gradual. It depends on two things:

  1. urban planning that ensures everyone has good access to safer transport alternatives rather than traffic-centric layouts

  2. long-term equity financed by “future-focused” lenders.

In this model, lenders are less focused on short-term returns. Instead, they have a greater focus on quality design as a catalyst for more development. In a virtuous circle, attractive development that places people close to community activities and businesses generates greater “footfall”. That in turn creates more business opportunities that make financially viable communities.

The Longevity by Design Challenge identified a range of opportunities to create a vibrant “longevity” economy by including people of all ages. Small, incremental and affordable changes towards resilient and age-friendly communities can transform perceived burdens into real assets.

Planning communities to embrace, not exclude, people over 65 has all kinds of benefits for Australia.The Conversation

Rosemary Jean Kennedy, Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Queensland University of Technology and Laurie Buys, Professor, Director of Healthy Ageing Initiative, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Old People Allowed to Be Rude


I never knew that being old made it allowable to be rude. However, this would seem to be the growing acceptable trend with older people. It would appear to me that this is the seeming policy in Aged Care these days, as well as in Retirement Villages, general public places, etc. You are no longer allowed to challenge poor behaviour in the elderly because they are old. Does being old give you a right to abuse people and to be rude ~ I wouldn’t have thought so, but apparently it is becoming an acceptable practice/trend.

Isn’t it interesting that in an age where any form of physical discipline of children is regarded as being child abuse, that the rate of poor behaviour in children is increasing to an alarming level? I have heard it said, that a lot of older people with Dementia-type illnesses return to a child-like state. But it seems to me, that by virtue of becoming old, a good number of older people are also being allowed to misbehave by society and are not being challenged concerning their behaviour simply because they are ‘old.’

Perhaps this is just another example of the way modern society is heading ~ a culture of disrespect for others and a strong sense of self-centredness.

I have a theory about all this ~ there is nothing really new under the sun. What earlier generations once called ‘sin,’ and what the Bible still does, modern society appears to be happy to call it becoming more self-aware and in touch with your needs, expressing healthy concern for self and meeting what self requires. I think I prefer the Biblical explanation. It is quite simply an expression of rebellion against God and disobedience to his law – in other words, sin.