The non-traditional preferences of Australia’s ageing population make it a market rich in opportunity for developers.
Increasingly, older Australians are expressing the desire to remain engaged and active. They have no interest in being swallowed by retirement homes – wanting more than ever to remain as independent citizens in the heart of communities. For developers looking for new target markets, downsizing retirees wanting to stay well-connected are looking at multi-residential and apartment developments.
Baby Boomers have what The Architecture + Design Forecast calls “an overwhelming desire to age in place”. This may or may not be in the family home where their children were raised and memories made, but ideally it wouldn’t be far away from it.
As members of the Baby Boomer generation approach their 70s, they are enjoying not only longer average lifespans, but also a higher quality of life compared with their forebears. When considering that a mere six percent of Australian senior citizens reside in retirement homes and even fewer are in assisted living or full care, there is growing demand for alternative options that satisfy the desire for a middle ground.
As the age balance between our population shifts, so too must our built environment. The country’s median age has increased by four years in the last two decades and is forecast to rise even more rapidly by 2020. In order to accommodate an older population, savvy developers and architects are capitalising on the opportunities by designing their projects to centre on citizens with extended lifespans and a different view of aged living.
Members of the new ageing generation want to remain where they are comfortable and familiar, enjoying a life and style reminiscent of the one they have spent their lives creating. More than this, they desire engagement with that place in a real and authentic sense, not in a gated and artificial construction.
Most Australians will not end their life in an aged care facility, but rather will choose to live out their twilight years at home – and thus these apartments need to be adaptable. In the architecture and design industry, a number of developers are making their creations more attractive to, and functional for, retirees, in terms of both facilities and services. To create housing that is adaptable for different life stages and to allow people to age in place, we need to construct buildings that are flexible in both structure and concept.
Tied up in this line of thought is the fact that Baby Boomers have become accustomed to a level of design detail and quality. As they begin to shift gears into retirement, they are seeking housing solutions that meet all of their needs – from proximity to local cultural institutions to sophisticated homes that cater to their needs, albeit on a smaller scale to the family home.
Designer, entrepreneur and sustainability advocate Yves Béhar believes that the care of an ageing population is the next frontier for design.
“Design that helps people age in place should be beautiful, accessible, intuitive – it should fit into our lives without making us feel like we are changing our daily routines and habits,” he says.
As the Australian population continues to age – in place – we can expect to see this reflected in the new face of design and the development projects being brought to market.