Research in ‘ageing-in-place’

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Words: 1705 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Words: 1705|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe. However, since the 1980s, there has been evidence to suggest an aging population and this is set to continue with the baby boomer generation moving into their retirement years. According to CSO 2016, the number of people aged in the over 65 years cohort is up 19.1% since the last census, in comparison to decreasing by 6.5% in the 19-24 years age group. Globally, it is estimated that between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the population aged over 60 years will double from about 11% to 22%, to about 2 billion people in total, of which, 395million will be over the age of 80. By 2050, older adults will have outnumbered all children under the age of 14. Most of this aging will take place in urban areas. (World Health Organisation, 2017) Population aging is considered a great triumph for society as it is a testament to drivers such as better-quality housing and living conditions, improved public health and, medical and scientific advances. However, there is little doubt that this unprecedented demographic transition may have profound implications economically, socially and politically. Therefore, it is imperative that planners start implementing strategies and providing services and infrastructure now to meet the challenges that this transition will pose. “The increasing relevance of the aging population structure to the policy agenda cannot be disputed.” (Hockey,Phillips, and Walford, 2013) This essay will discuss the planning challenges posed by an aging population; creating policy, providing infrastructure and, ensuring a diverse social housing stock.

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‘Ageing-in-place’ has been defined as “remaining living in the community, with some level of independence, rather than in residential care”(Davey, de Joux, Nana, & Arcus, 2004, pp. 133). Aside from the broad agreement that people remaining in their own homes is desirable on economic grounds in comparison to residential care, studies show that people prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home and familiar community setting.“An initial problem for planners in developing their understanding of the spatial experience of older people stems from the breadth of the concept, requiring the assimilation and translation of knowledge from a wide range of disciplines, including gerontology, geography, town planning, and psychology.” (Hockey, Phillips, and Walford, 2013) One way of overcoming this fundamental challenge is developing a multi-disciplinary approach to creating policy by analyzing data such as demographics, employment statistics, and school enrolment figures in order to forecast what the demand will be. The Royal TownPlanning Institute, representing the planning profession, has itself sought to address this gap in knowledge by publishing guides such as ‘Planning for an Ageing Population’, ‘Planning for an Ageing Society’ and ‘Housing for an Ageing Population’. The World Health Organisation’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities consists of more than 500 cities and communities in 37 countries, all working with a similar aim in mind; to improve their physical and social environments to allow healthy ageing in place underweight themes - the built environment, social participation, housing, respect and social inclusion, transport, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services. This network led to Ireland adopting its own national Positive Ageing Strategy, a high-level document published in 2013, whose vision statement is for “Ireland to be a society for all ages that celebrates and prepares properly for individual and population aging”.Planners must engage with strategies such as these and implement goals and objectives into national and local policy for housing, services, and infrastructure. For example, National Goal 3 of this strategy is to “enable people to age with confidence, security and dignity in their own homes and communities for as long as possible”. Objective 3.3 intends to “support the design and development of age-friendly public spaces, transport, and buildings” so that they are lifelong and adaptable.

Providing age-friendly infrastructure is absolutely vital in supporting the social and physical changes that come hand in hand with aging. Frankly, the universal design should be standard practice for planners and urban designers based on the assumption that good design benefits all residents. When one designs for the young they exclude the old, but when one designs for the old they include everybody; no matter what their physical, sensory, intellectual, mental ability or disability. In Cork County Council’s Services andInfrastructure for Older Persons’ Strategy (2014), they recommend provisions of practical guidance on ‘Universal Design’ and ‘Building for Everyone’. “Anage-friendly city is barrier-free, designed for diversity, inclusive and cohesive. It can make a city, a city of choice for all generations.” (WorldHealth Organisation, 2017) “Age-friendly cities design and adapt their natural and built environment for residents of all ages and different capacities –accessible and safe road and transport infrastructure, barrier-free access to buildings and houses, and public seating and sanitary facilities, among others.”(World Health Organisation, 2017) “A built environment featuring a universal and inclusive design that is pedestrian-friendly with well-connected street networks is shown to have a significant role in facilitating access to facilities and services, supporting physical activity and enabling older people to socialize.” (O’Brien, 2014) Features such as wide, well-maintained footpaths, adequate seating with grips, greater street connectivity, and permeability, third spaces such as community gardens, libraries, and cafes, access to public transport, densified mixed-land use - all these and more give older people the confidence to remain independent and active. They encourage them to leave their homes and use facilities such as community centers and public spaces where they may have the opportunity to meet other people and have social interactions, purposefully or by accident. (Alidoust and Bosman, 2015) According to the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities guide, “the city’s landscape, buildings, transportation system, and housing contribute to confident mobility, healthy behaviors, social participation, and self-determination, or, conversely, too fearful isolation, inactivity, and social exclusion”. Thus, it is crucial for planners to facilitate this healthy lifestyle and incorporate-friendly infrastructure into public realm developments.

Another challenge facing planners is the adequate provision of diverse social housing, either in the form of standard dwellings sheltered housing. According to 2014 data collected for Cork City and County, Local Authority owned housing primarily consists of three-bed housing units. Figures range from 59%-65% depending on the region, in comparison with 22%-33%two bed housing units, again depending on the region. However, there is a stark contrast with only 5% of the social housing stock comprising the one-bed housing. (Planning Policy Unit Cork County Council, 2014) This needs to be rectified as many elderly people may be living alone or with their partner after having raised children who have now moved on and have lives of their own.“There is also growing concern about the quality and appropriateness of housing stock for aging in place, for example, in terms of insulation, heating/cooling, housing size, and design.” (Howden-Chapman, Signal, & Crane, 1999; Means,2007; Wiles, Liebing, Guberman, Reeve & Allen, 2012) Older people living in social housing may age in place in either standard houses or sheltered houses, both options allow the person to live in the community. (Wiles, Liebing, Guberman, Reeve & Allen, 2012) A report produced by Cluid Housing, ‘A Home for Life’, made an array of recommendations for the planning and development of future housing schemes following extensive research and consultations with focus groups. The report recommended that well-designed homes, with appropriate supports, can positively impact on quality of life of older adults and promote independence. The clustering of services in proximity to accommodation is also a vital factor to consider. This facilitates aging-in-place and can delay or mitigate the need to move to residential care. Although social housing is traditionally provided by the local authority, there is a growing number of not-for-profit, voluntary housing associations stepping in and taking on this responsibility. Respond! is one such example, providing homes in a community beyond the four walls of a house, and is one of approximately five hundred and fifty housing associations registered in Ireland. It was established in the 1980sin Waterford, at the time when there was a need for housing for both young families and older persons. It is approved by and registered with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. One example of a housing estate built by Respond! is St. Francis Gardens, Blackpool which was a regeneration project; the redevelopment of the former Glen flats. It is now managed by theCope Foundation and consists of fifty-one homes, a day center for older persons and a twelve-bed group home. There is a range of community services and facilities available on-site to residents including gardening programmes and computer classes. For older residents, there are a variety of HSE services including physiotherapy, dietetics, podiatry, and counseling. It is also located near plenty of retail outlets and near to public transport links into the city center. People of all ages live in this particular estate, often moving in when they are in their fifties and settling.

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In conclusion, there are many challenges facing planners as a result of an aging population but we should view this as a positive thing and motivate ourselves to be innovative in overcoming the challenges in including older people in society, rather than thinking of them as a burden. Ensuring healthy aging requires a different emphasis on enablement and possibilities beyond the economic viability. An aging population should be viewed as “an opportunity to rethink and redesign our communities in a way that is inclusive and better for all”. In planning policy, we need to refer to older people not only in terms of housing but in multi-faceted terms also, viewing people as consumers,residents, community activists, employees and “thus considering broader issues such as health, retail, employment, transport and community facilities provision, in order to tap into the potential older people, represent for our societies” (O’Connell, Fox et al, 2017) and grant them the same opportunities to contribute to society in a fruitful way that their younger counterparts have. “It must be remembered that increasing longevity is an indicator of social and economic progress; a great triumph of civilization, and, specifically, of science and public policy over many of the causes of premature death which truncated lives in earlier times. Therefore, we should recognize that this unique phenomenon is one of the great achievements of the twentieth century.” (Walker, 2002)

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Research in ‘Ageing-in-place’. (2018, September 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
“Research in ‘Ageing-in-place’.” GradesFixer, 06 Sept. 2018,
Research in ‘Ageing-in-place’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Apr. 2024].
Research in ‘Ageing-in-place’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Sept 06 [cited 2024 Apr 23]. Available from:
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