The older people: where will they live?

Visiting a new development in Kent that is designed to be an attractive place to move to, in which to grow older gracefully, but also having the valuable social function of releasing a family home for the next generation,  we found it did not neatly fit into a usual housing design award category. Why? Because it offers more than just a house: the aim is to have a cafe, shop, hairdressers, a community room, places to sit out in, places to grow food in, even laundrette services are all on the one site. What is needed is a new award category.

Only this week Martin Read in a lead article in The Planner is referring to the need for these “new forms of accommodation” and points out the importance not just of making them attractive but also of tying these new homes to some form of financing that recognises the important function they have to “bring into the market the many empty rooms in larger houses currently occupied by empty nesters.” As the Kent Awards judges noted, there is no award that yet recognises this category, and indeed when I was trying to explain to one of the Civic Trust Award Panel what the category is, we agreed it was a bit of a mouthful… there is no snappy title to capture this valuable concept of building a truly attractive place to entice the older people to move out.

But the march of time means we need to create these meaningful sites, and award the best of them. To quote another source -Tony Watts, Hartley Watts Communications, a speaker at a forthcoming conference with the useful title ‘People matter’ –  “We live in an ageing society, yet it’s arguable that not every developer, planner and architect has really got the message that we need to create future communities that will function successfully within that reality.”