ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS FOR THE THIRD AGE
The changes that modern architects foresee after studying demographic projections for the aging population
Architecture turns its gaze to an aspect of the new reality that in the near future will shape the daily life of the population on earth: according to UN forecasts, in 2050 almost a third of the population (32.5%) will be of age 65 years and older. Practically, it means that population aging will affect the planning of cities and the ways of living in them. Contemporary architecture has studied demographic projections to approximate the spatial, social, and economic changes that will shape the choices of older people, as defined in what contemporary policy projections call “Aging in Place.” The term means that a person is able to live in the place of their choice without losing their quality of life when they reach old age.
According to archdaily.com, understanding architecture from the point of view of “young old people” signals a paradigm shift. Architects are asked to consider a range of facilities for daily activities, to design living systems that allow accessibility and comfort in movement, as well as relationships with the natural elements of wind, natural light, vegetation. Many studies point out that healthy aging is related to the idea of allowing people to grow up in conditions similar to those they have experienced throughout their lives, and this seems to be the path that architecture should follow, either by adapting existing buildings or building new ones. An example of changes to existing buildings has been given by the apartment buildings in Ommoord, a neighborhood in Rotterdam.
The residential complex 30 years after its construction (1968) did not serve the tenants. The residents of Ommoord were aging and in 1999 the Dutch architect Hans van der Heijden took it upon himself to find an architectural solution for different resident profiles through a co-design process involving the elderly residents themselves. So the ground floor and garages became healthcare spaces, and other apartments overlooking the garden were added, as was a community center. More stairs and lifts were also installed to improve the accessibility of apartments on upper floors and to reduce the length of access corridors.
The Spanish example
A similar initiative was undertaken in the Spanish city of San Andres del Rabanedo in 2016 by architect Oscar Miguel Ares Alvarez, leading renovations in the La Pinilla neighborhood so that its residents, 30% of whom are over 75, can remain in their homes , in the neighborhood and in their family environment. In fact, the renovation of 500 houses has been supported by the regional government for the adaptation and accommodation of the elderly population. For the architect, the home for the elderly must be configured in sections with lots of light and spaces to store objects that are part of their history. But mainly to be accessible through the senses. Alvarez explains that the elderly have not only motor but also sensory difficulties, which is why architecture can mobilize them through color, light and texture, helping them to gain greater autonomy.
However, in addition to adaptations, new residential complexes are being built aimed at users over 60 years of age. In the Brazilian city of Curitiba an active aging architectural project, Bioos, developed by architect Ricardo Amaral, includes apartments exclusively for the elderly, spaces for medical clinics and a basement with shops and services aimed at this audience. The program allows housing to incorporate technologies that facilitate daily life, without improvisations or adaptations, but also without looking like a clinic. And in Japan the Jikka architectural program is the proposal of aging away from urban chaos, with spaces designed to evoke a primitive hut. It concerns a residence for two women in their sixties with a social worker and a cook.