Posts in Senior Living

Later living isn’t just about residents… it’s more complex than that

November 12th, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

During last week’s Later Living Conference organised by Property Week there was a big focus on the residents of later living schemes and various discussions on how they are portrayed by operators and other sector consultants in the media.

Yet despite this people-centric focus, we saw presentation after presentation in which no real people featured at all! Rather, we saw artificially posed images and caricatures of older people drinking wine, sipping coffee and walking along beaches wearing Panama hats. We were also told that the sector’s future residents will be funky 70-year-olds performing handstands, wearing leather jackets and dying their hair blue.

Whilst it’s encouraging that the sector is trying to better understand its residents’ needs, we need to be careful not to base our schemes on the aspirational and imagined residents of retirement living brochures or assumptions about what the lifestyles of the next generation of senior citizens might be. After all, the Later Living Sector is not only about residents; it is much more complex than that. It is about creating residents’ communities; it’s about hospitality and care. We create places for living and places to work. We offer a range of hospitality services, as well as care and support. All elements work holistically to create successful schemes that will benefit real residents, enjoying life however they themselves see fit.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

The expert view on senior living

The expert view on senior living

October 28th, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

By 2040, nearly one in seven Britons will be over 75 according to a recent report by the Resolution Foundation. The report also estimates that a third of people born today can expect to live to be 100. This increased life expectancy is one of the great triumphs of modern society, but with this triumph comes many challenges, not least an ever-growing need for quality, well-located housing suitable for senior living.

At Urban Edge Architecture we believe that senior living needs to be provided within our towns and cities and we are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community.

Ideas around urban senior living have gained some traction in recent years and Urban Edge has seen its influence growing in the sector, with our dedicated experts invited to share their in-depth knowledge within a number influential journals and at high-profile events.

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Review editorial committee identified Urban Edge Architecture as an outstanding leader in its field, and Director Russell Gay was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to contribute to the Review’s 2019 edition. One of the topics Russell took the opportunity to discuss was the need for senior living provision in urban areas, calling on policy makers to help facilitate the creation of mixed-use, multigenerational developments that can foster a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy.

Writing in the Review – an esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders in an effort to raise standards – Russell said: “As architects, we see at first hand that high-quality, innovative design is crucial to attract people 65 years and over.

“Older people are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships.

“With the extremely high land values in cities, the creation of mixed-use developments not only answers the demands of modern living but also creates better funding opportunities. We believe mixed-use schemes are key to the creation of a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy, providing activity, employment opportunities and vibrant public spaces.”

Our contribution to the Parliamentary Review follows a number of recent high-profile speaking engagements for Urban Edge’s Senior Associate Director, Sonia Parol. Drawing on her wealth of experience working on both sides of the globe, including multi-residential, specialist housing and mixed-use projects in the urban living sector, Sonia has been a much sought-after expert for events such as Inside Housing’s Ageing In Place Summit and the Property Week Retirement Living Conference.

Sonia passionately believes that there is an urgent need to transform the UK housing market to ensure that senior citizens are treated equally, able to make the same meaningful choices as everyone else about where and how they live. To do this, she says, we need to make it a mandatory requirement to design and deliver all new homes to be accessible and adaptable to people’s needs over time.

Speaking ahead of her appearance at this year’s Ageing In Place Summit, Sonia said: “The UK government is pledging to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid 2020s to tackle the housing crisis. That’s why it’s so important to get the design of our housing correct now. If we don’t, we are locking in age-restricted housing for decades and poorly serving the needs of future generations of senior citizens who want to remain and play an active part in the communities in which they have lived all their lives.”

Ageing In Every Place

Ageing in every place – All homes should be appropriate for all ages

October 2nd, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

I’m often asked how best we can design suitable homes for senior citizens. Implicit within the question is the idea of an entirely separate strand of homes for older people, when really we should be asking how we can design all homes to be appropriate for all ages.

When it comes to housing provision, a new generation of senior citizens – many of whom chose to or will have to continue working – represent an increasingly unsatisfied market. They don’t always want or need to move to a retirement village or specialist housing, they want a home that better meets their lifestyle requirements and aspirations. Many would prefer to remain in their current homes, but struggle with properties that were not designed or built for ageing.

Whilst there will always be a requirement for specialist housing, we urgently need to transform our housing market to ensure that senior citizens are treated equally, able to make the same meaningful choices as everyone else about where and how they live. But we can only do that if we make it a mandatory requirement to design and deliver all new homes to be accessible and adaptable to people’s needs over time.

With the right legislative levers in place, this should not be too hard to achieve. It’s incredible to think that, at the turn of this century, very few buildings in the UK were even accessible because it was perceived to be too expensive or over-excessive to make every new development wheelchair friendly. Yet the introduction of Part M of the Building Regulations in October 1999 with its requirement that ‘reasonable provision shall be made for disabled people to gain access to and to use the building’ changed all of that. It was found surprisingly easy to implement and very little evidence has ever been put forward to suggest that the regulations have added to development costs.

Yet despite the ease with which Part M has been adopted, there is still a terrible shortage of accessible homes in the UK – only seven percent of homes in England meet basic accessibility features according to the Government’s own housing survey. And just because a home is accessible does not necessarily mean it is liveable or adaptable for all needs and requirements over time. We therefore need more ambition in the standards the Government sets for homes to ensure that all new housing is suitable or can, at the very least, be easily adapted for people as they age or if their needs change.

Ageing In Every Place Caption

Enshrining such measures in regulation is important. According to JRF research, prior to the introduction of Part M, many builders had little or no knowledge about disabled people and their design needs. Now that Part M has become the norm it has become second nature for architects and developers to design and deliver accessible and inclusive homes and nobody ever questions it. In much the same way, we now need to put the needs of our ageing population front and centre by bringing together a full range of measures on improving access and inclusion in the built environment into a coherent and transparent strategy.

It needn’t be a stretch. Many of the requirements would be similar to those already included in Part M, but they need to be more robust and extend to the long-term liveability of a home for all age groups and abilities. Many design guides for ageing in place already exist and often include simple measures such as open-floor plans with few obstructions, larger windows, specific colours to aid with depth perception, no-step entries and slip-resistant floor treatments – all fairly straightforward and easy enough to incorporate in any type of newly built homes. It neither sounds complicated or expensive.

Equally, whilst most discussions on ageing in place focus on the home, we also need to look at applying the same rules and regulations to the broader communities that play a crucial factor in people’s ability to stay put. In part, this requires a cultural shift, a better understanding of the psychological and physiological needs of older people by society as a whole. However, our built environment has a crucial role to play, too.

Creating a housing market where people have the option to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible benefits the whole of society, reducing the burden on the NHS, and encouraging more cohesive, intergenerational communities.

According to a 2018 House of Commons CLG report, the costs of poor housing to the NHS is estimated to be £1.4 billion per annum; of which nearly half (£624 million) is attributed to poor housing among older adults. At the same time that many older people are struggling with poor quality homes not designed for ageing, we are also seeing new houses being built that are not suitable for young or extended families. The lack of joined-up thinking and forward planning, as well as a failure to understand and design for the changing social needs of residents, has seen the continued segregation of generations and the inevitable fracturing of communities.

The UK government is pledging to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid 2020s to tackle the housing crisis. That’s why it’s so important to get the design of our housing correct now. If we don’t, we are locking in age-restricted housing for decades and poorly serving the needs of future generations of senior citizens who want to remain and play an active part in the communities in which they have lived all their lives.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Path to Wellbeing

The innovative path to wellbeing

April 3rd, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

As designers we should ensure the residents of senior-living developments are encouraged towards positive behaviours. We should do this not by controlling their environment and focusing solely on safety and reducing risk, but by providing a range of opportunities to continuously take part in active life in an integrated, wider community setting.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people move to housing within care developments. First of all, they value the lifestyle connected to enhanced facilities and public spaces; and, secondly, they value the safety and security of the future care provision. Whilst most residents might not have a need for care when first moving to a retirement community, they want to be safe in the knowledge that they will be supported should their needs change. However, it is our tendency to focus on the elements of safety and security in senior living and care home design that conversely, in my view, could have long-term negative impacts on the wellbeing of residents.

In October 2008 the New Economics Foundation was commissioned by the Government’s Foresight project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing to develop a set of five evidence-based actions1 to improve personal wellbeing. Whilst feelings of happiness, contentment and engagement are often cited as characteristic of someone who has positive life experiences, equally of importance for wellbeing is our functioning in the world. According to the NEF report, experiencing positive relationships, having some control over our lives and having a sense of purpose are all important attributes of wellbeing.

Yet in our attempts to deliver technically perfect and safe senior-living and care home environments, we seriously risk designing out those very opportunities that encourage residents to become active and aware, form positive relationships and have some control over their own lives.

The problem, in part, is our strict adherence to near 30-year-old best practice guidance, the primary intent of which is to deliver design solutions that minimise or avoid risks to residents rather than to develop solutions to improve residents’ lives. Equally the rules and regulations that we have at the moment are principally aimed at the care end of the spectrum, yet with so many different models of senior living now on the market and targeted at different ages, abilities and lifestyles schemes cannot – and should not – all be designed in the same way. Whilst we clearly have building regulations and standards to which we must adhere, these standards and regulations should not drive the design of the schemes that we create.

Path to Wellbeing Quote 1

It concerns me that we do not often challenge the rules and considered norms in the UK senior living and care sector. We have focused on creating safe and attractive environments, but still within the same standard concept of a nursing home. In other words, we are just wrapping the same concept in nicer material.

We still have a cluster of bedrooms with one lounge, a quiet lounge and a dining room. We might add a shop or a hairdresser, but they are only available to the residents and only accessible via an internal lift – residents don’t have to put a coat on, they don’t have to walk far, they don’t see anyone other than carers at the hairdresser or the shop. We are still worried about their interaction with other people, we want to keep them safe and in a completely risk-free environment. When you stop to consider it, this is about as far from a ‘normal’ environment as possible and residents have few opportunities to experience positive relationships or have some control over their lives. We should always aspire to do better and we can only do that if we focus on the residents we are developing for. If you think about the people who are going to live in the space that you are designing, then you start thinking about their wellbeing and how you can create truly sustainable communities.

So where to start? During our workshop at last years’ Housing LIN annual conference, we asked what the future of senior-living schemes should look like. We got great feedback from people attending our seminar and the main message was that we should create spaces that work for everyone, no matter what their background or age; an inclusive environment that allows people to connect with each other.

That care and senior living schemes ought to be integrated into the local community with the ability to share facilities where practical, is something I learnt whilst working on vertical villages in Sydney, Australia. I learnt that people should be able to continue to lead an independent lifestyle where they can easily access shops, restaurants, cafés and other forms of retail and leisure whenever they choose. These ‘vertical villages’ allowed their 65-year-old and older residents to have easy access to the Sydney Opera House, Darlington Harbour and the public transport of ferries at the Circular Quay.

It is my view that we should aim to create truly intergenerational communities that include care home, assisted living apartments as well as student accommodation and a crèche – actively encouraging social connection, where young and old can live side-by-side, benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of multigenerational living. As an example, a recent report by United for All Ages suggests that twinning nurseries with care homes encourages older people to engage in physical activity by playing with children and enjoying the spirit and joy that they can bring to their home environment. Interaction with children helps lessen symptoms of loneliness and isolation in older residents who gain a new sense of self-worth, an opportunity to transfer knowledge and the ability to serve as role models; whilst children who regularly mix with older people see improvements to their language development, reading and social skills.

Path to Wellbeing Quote 2

In looking to push beyond the norms, we have looked to apply some of my learnings from Australia, as well as observations from European care homes and villages in Copenhagen, Hogeweyk and Deventer, at a truly multigenerational mixed-use scheme in the UK. We focused our design on provision of diverse public open spaces, including a variety of accessible green spaces such as play areas, allotments and outdoor eating areas to support wellbeing. Providing facilities and interest in public open spaces such as outdoor seating increases potential for social interaction and extends the use of space. In the case of care homes or dementia facilities, if physical connection is challenging we could provide visual connection where residents of the care home can see and hear children playing.

Whilst focusing on shared public areas we must also consider the provision of private space, enabling residents to have a choice to participate in community daily life or retire to tranquil, more private space. As people’s situations change with age, they may progressively need a calmer, more private environment. The older years are a particularly vulnerable time; physically and psychologically, therefore we made sure we provided here safe, semi-private and private spaces to reduce levels of distress and insecurities. This can be still achieved whilst providing the visual/aural connections with the outside world.

As we age we lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, encouraging a modest level of activity becomes important in order to improve cardiac health and maintain general fitness. Moving up and down stairs is a simple and effective solution. On the other hand, for those who are physically disabled or are wheelchair users, we made sure that our design accommodated their needs. Our design considerations incorporated strategies to ensure that partners and carers of wheelchair users are encouraged to remain active too. Clearly such a lot of social connection and activity is dependent on the operators, their staff and the residents themselves – but architecture can encourage everyone’s wellbeing – and happier staff means they will be attracted, retained and be more productive and supportive of residents.

Looking at the bigger picture, it could be argued that the overall residential sector in the UK lacks vision and innovation. In other sectors, where the status quo has been challenged, we have seen the design and delivery of some fantastic, cutting edge buildings, particularly in leisure, retail and workplace. Yet the residential sector has changed little. There are new houses being built that are not suitable for young families, whilst at the opposite end of the scale there are many older people struggling with homes that were not designed for ageing. The lack of joined-up thinking and forward planning, as well as a failure to understand and design for the changing social needs of residents has seen the segregation of generations continue a pace and communities fracture. Not only are shared and social spaces important for physical and mental health and wellbeing, but they will also be considered a necessity for the next generation of senior citizens who want to continue to play an active part in society.

Within the senior living sector, care and dementia care present the biggest challenges for connected living, yet examples in Australia, Copenhagen and the Netherlands, as well as our own efforts here in the UK to explore the benefits that can come from social connection and multigenerational living, prove just what can be achieved if we begin to challenge the expected norms. And if we can see the benefits even in these most challenging environments, then applying it to other areas of residential development should be very easy.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Footnote:
1In October 2008 New Economics Foundation published five ways to well-being.
NHS evidence suggests that these five steps improve our mental wellbeing:
1) Connect
2) Be active
3) Take notice
4) Keep learning
5) Give

Sonia Parol Appointed Senior Associate Director

Sonia Parol appointed Senior Associate Director

October 9th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

We have appointed Sonia Parol as Senior Associate Director. As part of her new role, Sonia will be looking to develop strategic business partnerships, further expanding our workload into care and residential, as well as exploring opportunities for the use of innovative solutions such as modular construction.

Sonia, who has worked for Urban Edge for the last two years as our Head of Care and Specialist Residential, has overseen our continued growth into the care sector and has led the design and delivery of several major senior living projects, including Bishopstoke Park, an innovative retirement village for Inspired Villages Group, recently shortlisted in the British Homes Awards Best Community Living category.

Prior to joining the Urban Edge team Sonia was also leading large-scale residential and PRS schemes in the rg+p office in Leicester. She has a breadth of experience from working on both sides of the globe, including multi-residential, specialist housing and mixed-use projects in the urban living sector. Between 2009-2011 Sonia was the Practice Manager in an award-winning practice in Sydney where she worked on high-end residential and aged care projects.

Sonia said: “I have always shared the strategic vision of the Directors and I am excited to now be playing a part in the continued growth of Urban Edge. This includes further expansion into areas for which I have a strong passion, such as intergenerational urban living, the repurposing of retail and identifying innovative solutions for care and retirement living models, such as modular construction. I am looking forward to – and would warmly welcome – discussions with forward-thinking developers, operators and contractors in these fields.”

Russell Gay, Director at Urban Edge, added: “This promotion recognises not only the hard work and innovative thinking that Sonia has shown over recent months, but also the obvious passion she has for the retirement sector. We are delighted that Sonia will be playing a larger part in the forward momentum of our business.”

Bishopstoke Park shortlisted for British Homes Awards

Bishopstoke Park shortlisted for prestigious Sunday Times British Homes Awards

September 19th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Urban Edge Architecture is delighted to announce that Bishopstoke Park has been shortlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times British Homes Awards in the Best Community Living category.

Bishopstoke Park is a major project comprising 48 care bedrooms, 36 village centre apartments, 19 assisted living apartments and 169 village apartments. Urban Edge Architecture was appointed by Anchor Trust and English Care Villages (now Inspired Villages) in 2011 to design and deliver the first two phases of this £42m innovative retirement village on the outskirts of Southampton. We worked closely with retirement village pioneer Keith Cockell, as well as concept architect Ed Tyack, to develop a self-contained community which will allow older people to live independently with different levels of care as and when they need it.

Sonia Parol, Senior Associate Director at Urban Edge, said: “Architecture is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about creating spaces that encourage social connection. Having visited Bishopstoke Park since it was completed, sharing stories and experiences with its residents, it has been a delight to hear that the spaces we designed have created a great sense of community where older people feel happy, connected and less isolated.”

“Whilst moving to retirement accommodation can be one of life’s major decisions, it is thrilling to hear that Bishopstoke Park has become an aspirational place to live and the development’s shortlisting for The Sunday Times British Homes Awards is confirmation that we have created a true community for older people.”

The Sunday Times British Homes Awards take place on the evening of 20th September 2018 at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square. For further information, please visit the British Homes Awards website.

Humanitas - Deventer

Learning to innovate – Part 3: Humanitas

August 29th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

In the final part of her ‘learning to innovate’ blog Sonia and the Lincoln University students visit the Humanitas centre in Deventer, Netherlands.

At Urban Edge Architecture we want to create developments that actively encourage social connection, where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. There are numerous examples of this socially connected, multigenerational approach in the Netherlands, but perhaps the most famous is the Residential and Care Centre Humanitas in the riverside town of Deventer. Humanitas Deventer is not a new care home – in fact, the original building dates back to the 1970s – but it has recently attracted international media interest because it is one of the first long-term care facilities to also double as a student dorm. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in the centre’s vacant rooms free of charge. It’s an excellent example of intergenerational living and we were keen to see first-hand how it worked.

The first thing to note upon arriving in Deventer is how the care home sits within an existing residential area of the town. There are 160 residents and, incredibly, some 200 volunteers. This is the result of having the care home in the residential area where the majority of residents once lived – neighbours and friends volunteer for an hour or two each week and ensures a seamless connection to the area where residents have lived all their lives. As we saw in our previous study trip to Copenhagen, this is in marked contrast to senior living models in the UK where care homes are frequently located in rural areas and often isolate residents from the communities in which they once lived.

Allowing students to live in Humanitas has also helped residents stay connected with the outside world, whilst equally benefiting their mental wellbeing. There are different options available for the students – they can live there for three weeks, three months or three years… and anything else in between! There is no separate wing for students, they have individual rooms that are spread out throughout the home so that they can get to know and interact with their older neighbours. The accommodation is free on the proviso that they commit to 30 hours of social work a week. The social work does not involve ‘care’ and is based more on wellbeing and supporting residents in their daily activities, whether it be having a chat over a cup of tea or going for a walk.

When I asked Peter Daniels, the manager at Humanitas Deventer, if he could see any changes in the senior residents since the students moved in he said that, whilst there was no scientific proof, one just needed to look around to see how happy everybody is. He also noted that the young people benefit as well – they start to understand the importance of living in a community. One of the students said that, before he moved to Humanitas, he would avoid older people in town and on public transport; whereas now he has started to value the company of the elderly people, the many stories they can share and the history and experience they can impart.

Addressing us as architects, Peter Daniels said that we should focus our design intent on wellbeing as, in his opinion, this is what senior living should be about: happiness and wellbeing at the end of your life. He said that there are some care homes in the Netherlands that are much newer and brighter, yet there is still a waiting list to move into Humanitas because of the environment and community it provides. He also said that we should always consider the social context and be adaptable to the individual needs of the people who move in.

At Urban Edge Architecture, we are interested in all aspects of senior living, from retirement to extra care. We also believe profoundly in the benefits that can come from social connection and multigenerational living. Not only are shared and social spaces important for physical and mental health, but they will be considered a necessity for the next generation of senior citizens who want to continue to play an active part in society. Within the senior living sector, care and dementia care present the biggest challenges for connected living, yet examples in Copenhagen and the Netherlands prove just what can be achieved if we begin to challenge the expected norms.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Hogeweyk - Netherlands

Learning to innovate – Part 2: Hogeweyk

July 6th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Continuing Urban Edge Architecture’s research into innovative solutions for senior living, Sonia Parol visits two care homes in the Netherlands that have placed the happiness and wellbeing of residents at the center of their design and operation. This article will cover the Hogeweyk care village, with a post to follow covering the Humanitas centre in Deventer.  Both schemes are highly successful, yet differ greatly from models commonly found in the UK – is it time we started to challenge the accepted rules, regulations and concepts that have dominated the UK care home market for several decades?

As part of our ongoing research into senior living developments in urban settings, Urban Edge Architecture recently undertook a study tour of several innovative care homes and senior living accommodation schemes with students from the University of Lincoln. Our trip to the Netherlands follows a visit made to two care homes in Copenhagen last year where social connection is actively encouraged through the provision of shared and social spaces (see part 1 of Sonia’s blog).

That spirit of challenging the norms could clearly be seen at the Hogeweyk care village in Weesp. It was clear from the outset that this care home was very different from those we see in the UK. Whilst it is a nursing home for severe dementia, at no stage during our three-hour visit did it feel like a nursing home. For a start, there were plenty of people walking around independently and it was almost impossible to distinguish whether they were residents, workers or visitors. Usually, when you go to a dementia ward or care home in the UK, you have locked doors because the focus is on creating safe environments – but in Hogeweyk doors are left unlocked and sometimes wide open, minimising the frustration and irritation that is often symptomatic for people living with dementia. Incredibly, even the main door to access the care village remains unlocked! The focus at Hogeweyk is on normality – a simple concept perhaps, but a really huge challenge to maintain in a care or nursing home setting. Eloy van Hal, Project Manager for the realisation of Hogeweyk and Senior consultant at Be (part of the Vivium Care Group), told us that keeping the doors open, having fresh air and encouraging people to leave their rooms and participate in daily life keeps residents in better physical and mental condition.

Eloy told us that 24 years ago, there was a nursing home on the site but it wasn’t a great place for people to continue their lives because they had too many people living together and it was too institutional, more focused on care rather than wellbeing. He said that people want to continue their lives in recognisable environments with a normal daily life. So they decided to challenge the norms by introducing some changes, for instance creating smaller groups of people living together and matching those people who lived together according to their lifestyle, ideas, history, hobbies and values. After 10 years they noticed how beneficial this was and so decided to demolish the existing building and create something new.

The result is the Hogeweyk village we see today – 23 homes (growing to 27 by the end of this year) with small groups of six or seven like-minded people living together, the matched lifestyles and preferences ensuring a regular rhythm to residents’ lives, creating less stress, irritation and aggression. Residents, even with severe dementia, can leave their homes and walk inside the village neighbourhood, accessing amenities such as shops, restaurants and pubs.

Whilst Hogeweyk provides a really high level of nursing care, the priority is on creating wellbeing and as normal a day-to-day lifestyle as possible. In each house they cook their own meals, with residents buying ingredients and other household essentials from the village shop. Whilst the shop is part of the scheme, it can be accessed from the local neighbourhood and is also used by the wider community. Much like the Bomi-Parken development we visited in Copenhagen, spaces within Hogeweyk are also rented out, not only to provide additional revenue streams but also to provide more activity and opportunities for residents to interact with a variety of different people. Indeed, the scheme has been designed to make it very easy for visitors and is a much more pleasant place to visit than a standard nursing home.

Eloy explained that it was very important to bring people of different ages into the village – whether they are volunteers or visitors to the shop and restaurant – to create a liveable, vibrant society with lots of activities going on. This is important because it starts to question our understanding of ‘activity’. In the UK, we tend to have activity managers in care homes who run classes, whereas the Hogeweyk model focuses on natural and organic activity. Having a ‘normal’ lifestyle – whether walking around the village, going shopping, sitting in the café or cooking your own meals – generates natural and real activities.

Of course, many people reading this may be thinking, ‘Well, this is the Netherlands, they’re traditionally relaxed and probably don’t have the same volume of regulations as the UK.’ But, actually, there are lots of rules and regulations in the Netherlands that the care sector must follow – however, the rules and regulations often follow innovation, they do not stifle it. It concerns me that in the UK we no longer challenge the rules and considered norms. We have focused on creating safe and attractive environments, but still within the same standard concept of a nursing home. In other words, we are just wrapping the same concept in nicer material.

We still have a cluster of bedrooms with one lounge, a quiet lounge and a dining room. We might add a shop or a hairdresser, but they are only available to the residents and only accessible via an internal lift – residents don’t have to put a coat on, they don’t have to walk far, they don’t see anyone other than carers at the hairdresser or the shop. We are still worried about their interaction with other people, we want to keep them safe and in a completely risk-free environment. When you stop to consider it, this is about as far from a ‘normal’ environment as possible. I think we have to do better and we have to look for innovation.

Pointedly, Eloy also said that instead of following the rules, we should make our own. This may seem a like flippant statement, but in witnessing these different approaches to senior living in other parts of Europe it struck a chord and made me consider whether we have become too reticent to challenge the accepted norms in the UK. The majority of care homes in the UK may look architecturally different, but they are very similar in their concept, with operators and developers adhering to the concepts they have delivered for the last 20 years or so. However, the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” will no longer wash because the people who will be moving into retirement or care homes in the future will have completely different lifestyles and expectations. In many care homes – as well as children’s developments, it has to be said – our focus has been on reducing risk rather than creating an environment for happy people. Perhaps it is time to challenge our risk-averse mindset?

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Bomi-Parken - Copenhagen

Learning to innovate – Part 1: Copenhagen

May 10th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

As part of our ongoing research to develop innovative senior living schemes in our towns and cities, Urban Edge’s Sonia Parol has visited care homes and senior living schemes in Europe that are taking a different approach to those found in the UK. In the first of three blogs, Sonia shares some of her observations from two urban care homes in Copenhagen that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces.

One of the key observations we made at the recent Housing LIN conference was that the senior living sector in the UK is at a pivotal moment: it is a sector that recognises the changing needs and expectations of its core demographic and is interested in innovation and evolution. Yet to do this, it must seek to challenge the rules and change the concepts that we have been applying to senior living schemes for years.

That the sector is poised to embrace innovation was good to hear as it backs up our long-held view that we need to find innovative new solutions for the people coming into retirement age now as they will have completely different lifestyle expectations to those that went before. For some time in the UK, the retirement or care sector has been focused at the high end of the market – luxurious care and retirement villages, often located in rural locations. These developments may suit the silent generation, who perhaps haven’t travelled far and have worked and saved to feel safe and secure; but the baby boomers who are now entering retirement, who were brought up in the revolutionary era of The Beatles and the Stones and have often travelled widely are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities.

At Urban Edge Architecture we are interested in developing innovative senior living schemes in our towns and cities that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create  communities where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. We are therefore always keen to further our knowledge of these types of development and, over the last six months, we have travelled to other parts of Europe to visit care homes and senior living schemes where there is a physical connection with the wider community. This ongoing research not only allows us a better understanding of the advantages of these schemes, but also to consider the challenges and how these could be overcome. After all, as physicist William Pollard once famously said: “Learning and innovation go hand in hand.”

In September last year we embarked on a study tour to Copenhagen where our first port of call was to OK Huset Lotte in the Frederiksberg district of the city. This state-funded, 60-resident dementia care home lies just 15 minutes’ car journey from the main city centre and, upon arrival, it is immediately striking how different a model it is to those that we see in the UK. Lotte is designed over six floors and is very contemporary in style – the furniture, for instance, is very modern and minimalistic in keeping with the Scandinavian vernacular. The reason for this is simple: the majority of the residents were from Copenhagen and would have lived in apartments in the city before moving to Lotte and therefore the surroundings and living accommodation would have been recognisable to them.

The ability for residents to remain in the area where they had lived also meant that their neighbours who were still living independently could easily come to visit, ensuring a continuous and seamless connection to their local community. Whilst much store is set, quite rightly, on maintaining connections with family, it has to be recognised that a connection with your neighbours and friends is also very important. If you remove a person from one place to live in a care home that is 100 or even 50 miles away from where they were living then you break their connections with the community. In Copenhagen, having care homes in rural locations as well as in city centres and other urban locations gives people a choice to remain in the community in which they lived. This couldn’t be in starker contrast to many of the senior living and care home facilities we see in the UK, which often isolate older people from their local communities.

Physical connection to the local community couldn’t be better exemplified than at the Bomi-Parken care home we visited next on our tour. Part of the Gyldenrisparken residential complex in Copenhagen, at Bomi-Parken there are no fences or gates and the care home is physically linked with the housing and schools that surround it, as well as being near to a local neighbourhood shopping centre. The elderly can interact with families and children going about their daily activities and greatly helps to combat loneliness and keep minds active.

Lars Bo Sørensen, the Manager of Bomi-Parken, told us that visual and physical connection with the local community was the key design element when they considered the scheme. He said that the people who live around the care home use the facilities – they come in to use the gym and the café; they come in to use the food therapy room and the diabetes clinic. This is in marked contrast to care homes in the UK, where shops, hairdressers, cafés and therapy centres may well be included, but are often enclosed within the development – not facing a public square and local shops to be used by the local community.

Visual and physical connections are maintained in other ways, too. Residents of the care home could see and hear children at play in the adjoining school playground. A zipwire, running just 10m away from the windows of the care home, had children zooming along it; rather than it being annoying, the sound was happy and people from the care home were sitting on balconies watching, smiling and laughing. In many ways, it was really overwhelming to see the joy this brought to residents.

Observing the residents of Bomi-Parken choosing to sit on their balconies, go down to the garden, or visit the local shops, it struck me that in a lot of care and nursing homes in the UK, people don’t have a need to leave their bedrooms as there isn’t much activity – and the activities that are provided sometimes feel institutional and involve little personal choice. Yet even facilitating a visual connection to the activities taking place in the local community can create tangible benefits, giving residents a choice to observe the world around them and feel like they are part of it as well.

One of the other key aspects noted during our Housing LIN conference workshop on the future of senior living, was that we need to spend less time focusing on age and more time on individual needs and lifestyle. From a design point of view, therefore, it was interesting to note the differences between Bomi-Parken and OK Huset Lotte and how they have been planned to reflect the lifestyle of the residents.

Bomi-Parken care home is a two-storey building because the surrounding residential area is much lower rise and the interior is much softer than the contemporary designs found at Lotte. Bomi-Parken also has a much larger garden area because residents, having lived in the surrounding suburbs, were used to having gardens and seeing green open space. Lotte, on the other hand, was located in a town centre and only had a roof terrace and balconies. Also interesting to note was that, at Lotte, there were two key areas with large windows – one to watch a railway track and the other overlooking a very busy road where people would choose to sit and watch the city life because that’s what they were used to doing; whereas in Bomi-Parken it was completely different, with views from windows looking out over the school playground, the zipwire and the square as one might expect in suburbia. When you analyse the social context you are able to design a building fit for purpose, creating a recognisable environment and a normal life for the residents.

Whilst we are starting to see more interest in locating care and senior living accommodation in urban areas in the UK, the focus tends to be on extra care or at the luxurious end of the scale, particularly in the South East. Care homes are still generally located in more rural and quiet locations. There is clearly a need for these rural developments, but people are increasingly demanding choice. Somebody who has lived all their lives in a rural area wouldn’t want to move to the city centre, whereas people who have spent all their lives surrounded by cafés and shops and the buzz of the city wouldn’t want to move away to the quiet country life.

Likewise, ageing impacts every social strata and it is our view that we should be looking into more mid-market models  and maybe look for inspiration in some of the Scandinavian and Dutch approaches? These two developments in Copenhagen demonstrate what can be achieved – whilst our follow-up study trip to the Netherlands afforded us even further opportunity to observe approaches that allow for multigenerational integration and connections with the wider community through communal services. You can read all about that trip in Part II of this blog, coming soon…

We would like to express many thanks to Anna Wilroth from Aeldre Sagen (Dane Age) who helped us organise our trip to Copenhagen.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Housing LIN Workshop

Urban Edge ‘senior living for the next generation’ workshop brings together fifty sector-leading professionals for a dynamic discussion

April 5th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Billed as ‘An IdeasFest’, the 2018 Housing LIN Annual Conference took place at the end of March in the magnificent surrounds of the Kia Oval, home to Surrey County Cricket Club. Urban Edge Architecture was delighted to headline sponsor the event that gathered industry leaders from across the housing, health, social and private care sectors to share knowledge and ideas and take a fresh look at homes for all ages.

In an executive box overlooking the historic cricket ground we were appropriately bowled over by the numbers who attended the Urban Edge afternoon thought-leadership workshop session to examine new urban approaches to senior living. Attendees included CEOs, Management Directors and Development Directors from Abbeyfield, Amicala, Audley, Castleoak, Extra Care, Elderflowers, One Housing, PegasusLife and many others.

Our workshop explored the expectations of the next generation approaching retirement and considered what the future of senior living would look like. As you might expect from a room of fifty or more sector-leading professionals, we heard a number of diverse views and slight variances of approach depending on different experiences in the sector. However, there were a number of common themes that arose from this most dynamic of discussions.

The first key message that came out of the workshop is that older people expect choice. For some time in the UK, there has been a considerable focus from the retirement or care sector at the high end of the market – luxurious care villages, often located in rural locations. Yet the senior demographic is rapidly changing, and these changes impact all parts of the country and across a variety of social strata.

Not everyone wants to live in a rural location where they may feel isolated from their local communities. Nor, it has to be said, does everyone want to live in an urban location if it is not the environment to which they are accustomed. The ability to choose between senior living within our towns and cities as well as our villages and rural locations is therefore essential.

Another significant theme was that one size can no longer fit all. We need to spend less time focusing on age and more time on individual needs and lifestyle. This may seem counterintuitive to a sector that will often place 55+ or 65+ age restrictions on its developments – but as people live longer and healthier lives, senior living developments will have to adapt to the sometimes significant changes that people go through from the ages of 55 to 65 to 85 and, increasingly, later. This is why focusing on the individual needs of people will become crucial – after all, some people can be unhealthy or have mobility problems at the age of 40, whilst others can be very healthy and active at the age of 80.

Carol Barac, a Director at Elderflowers Projects, said that there is currently a real lack of choice for older people who want to remain active, but perhaps want to downsize their homes. Ideally, they want to avoid what they perceive as being institutionalised in a traditional care or retirement setting and want a home that can be adaptable so they can age in place. Emma Webster, Public Policy Manager at PegasusLife, said that people often only move into an age-restricted place if prompted to do so by an event. If we want to inspire people to move into a development, rather than wait until they have a need to move, we have to create more aspirational places.

For us as designers, perhaps one of the most thought provoking strands of the discussion was the idea that we have to design for young people who are getting older. Attendees at our workshop suggested that, at the moment, we design everything for the latest stages of life because these are the most challenging when you have to provide care – but actually the sector is changing its focus to lifestyle and we need to start designing for younger people who will then be able to age in place.

Equally, if we stop solely focusing on age we will be able to design something that can serve different generations, creating developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. As several of our workshop attendees noted, age-restrictive developments have started to create various issues for the sector, not only because it is limiting the potential customer base, but it is also fracturing elements of society by keeping people apart.

This latter line of thinking was perfectly summarised in an earlier conference session by Professor Jeremy Myerson of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing entitled ‘The new old: exploring the potential for design and designers to enhance and experience our later lives’. Professor Myerson stated that “design can keep people apart or it can bring them together and we have to design around social inclusion.” He went on to say that if there is a time for innovative ideas, that time is now.

Indeed, a sector poised to embrace innovation was perhaps the most overwhelming impression I took from our day at the Housing LIN conference: it is a sector that recognises the changing needs and expectations of its core demographic and is interested in creating something better. To do this it must innovate – but to be truly innovative we will need to challenge the rules and change the concepts that we have been applying to our schemes for years – and this involves risk.

Our strength lies in the sector’s willingness to share ideas as perfectly exemplified in the Housing LIN’s IdeasFest. It is through these collaborative processes and shouldering the risk together that we can push the sector into innovation and work towards building communities where we can all age well.

As part of our ongoing research into the future of senior living and in direct response to some of the outcomes of our Housing LIN conference workshop, Urban Edge Architecture will be undertaking a pilot survey of all age groups. The survey will seek common intergenerational patterns in housing and living expectations, as well as significant areas of difference. If you would like to receive a summary of our findings, please email enquiries@urbanedgearchitecture.co.uk.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Housing LIN

Urban Edge Architecture – Headline sponsors at the Housing LIN Annual Conference

March 20th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Urban Edge Architecture is pleased to announce that it is headline sponsoring the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) Annual Conference in London this week where it will also be hosting a thought-leading workshop session to examine new urban approaches to senior living.

Chaired by Inside Housing magazine’s award-winning Editor, Emma Maier, this year’s Housing LIN conference has the theme ‘An Ideas Fest: A Fresh Look at Homes for All Ages’. It follows in the wake of the recent CLG Select Committee’s report on housing for older people which called on the Government to recognise the link between homes and health and social care in the forthcoming social care green paper.

“As architects for the care and retirement sector we are always looking to further our knowledge to inform and improve our future designs. Housing LIN’s ability to bring together industry leaders from across the housing, health and social care sectors to share knowledge and ideas is essential if we are to develop a fresh look at homes for all ages,” says Sonia Parol, Associate Director, Urban Edge Architecture. “We have been working with Housing LIN for the last year and spoke at the East Midlands Region Housing LIN meeting in October and are excited to be supporting the vital discussions and knowledge share that will take place at the annual conference in London.”

During the conference, Sonia and Urban Edge Architecture Director Russell Gay will be hosting a knowledge and innovation workshop session titled ‘Senior Living: How can we meet the aspirations of the new generation?’ in which industry leaders will join a lively discussion on whether senior living should be provided within our towns and cities, as well as villages and rural locations.

“This question poses unique challenges and demands original thinking,” explains Sonia. “We must take into account an individual’s independence, quality of life and care requirements, balanced against their personal finances and that of the public sector. At Urban Edge Architecture, we believe that the social, cultural and intergenerational benefits that come with living in an urban environment should be enjoyed by all ages.

“Is there an opportunity for the aged 65+ group to significantly contribute to the positive experience of life in the city? This is something that should prove a crucial design driver for architects and urbanists over the coming decades.”

Following the Urban Edge Architecture workshop, Helen Hayes MP, member of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, will present a keynote address on the need for a national strategy on housing for older people. This will be followed by Dr Bill Thomas, creator of The Green House®, and co-founder of ChangingAging, and Global Chair of Evermore, USA, who will examine pioneering collaborative living lessons from America. Other keynote speakers throughout the day include Geeta Nanda OBE, Chief Executive, Metropolitan Housing Trust and Professor Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art and a Visiting Fellow in the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing at the University of Oxford.

The Housing LIN Annual Conference takes place on Friday 23 March 2018 at the KIA Oval, London. The Urban Edge Architecture Workshop ‘Senior Living: How can we meet the aspirations of the new generation?’ takes place between 2.10 and 3pm.

If you would like to arrange to speak to Sonia or Russell before, during or following the event, please call 01780 755 665.

You can read more about Urban Edge Architecture’s urban approach to senior living here.

Sonia Parol’s Housing LIN blog posts can be found here:
–  Dont ignore the silver pound
–  Why architects must constantly seek to learn and improve

Bishopstoke Park - Lessons-Learned

Assess, evaluate and apply – Why architects must constantly seek to learn and improve on their designs

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

In July last year, Urban Edge Architecture spent 24 hours in one of its retirement village projects in Hampshire as part of a lessons-learned exercise. You would think that such exercises should be common practice in our industry, yet often design teams can be guilty of completing a building and walking away to the next site with little consideration given to how well their project may – or may not – be performing. However, as architects for the care and retirement sector, where developers and operators are one and the same, we need to ensure that we provide the highest quality of design for them to be able to operate for at least 20 or 30 years on site. To do this we need to constantly assess and evaluate our schemes, learn from our mistakes and use those lessons to inform and improve our future designs.

This is why I spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park, one of our first retirement village projects. Urban Edge Architecture was appointed by Anchor Trust and English Care Villages (now Inspired Villages) in 2011 to design and deliver the first two phases of this £42M innovative retirement village on the outskirts of Southampton. We worked closely with retirement village pioneer Keith Cockell, as well as concept architect Ed Tyack, to develop a self-contained community which will allow older people to live independently with different levels of care as and when they need it. Bishopstoke Park is a major project comprising 48 care bedrooms, 36 village centre apartments, 19 assisted living apartments and 169 village apartments. Phase I is now complete and Phase II is due to complete in the coming months.

As this was one of the first projects of its kind that both Anchor Trust and Urban Edge Architecture had been involved in, our 24-hour stay formed part of a lessons-learned exercise to establish the elements that did work and those that perhaps hadn’t worked quite as well as we had envisaged and that should be designed out in the future.

It’s all too easy to design places made on broad assumptions but this can often lead to significant performance gaps between design stage and built in-use. The bottom line is that we can only design buildings that work if we really understand what is needed and the elements that will make a difference to the people who will ultimately use the space, whether employees or residents.

During my stay it was very important that I got detailed comments that only the people who ran Bishopstoke Park could give me. I spent several hours with the General Manager, Kevin Young, who was not only supportive of what we were trying to achieve, but whose enthusiasm and belief in Bishopstoke Park as a truly great place to live was a joy to hear.

I spoke with all of the staff, from the receptionist to the nurses, from the care home manager to the people who work in the wellness spa. All had great ideas and provided valuable insight that was very specific to their role or individual specialism that I would not have been able to learn by other means.

Most importantly, I spent a lot of time talking to the residents who were more than willing to share with me their stories and experiences of living at Bishopstoke Park. I came away with lots of detailed comments about everything from taps to window openings to kitchen units. Sometimes the issues were personal and at other times they were things that we could look to address more generally. And whilst there were occasions it seemed residents were more willing to talk about their past and their children than give me comments about the building itself, it afforded me a rare opportunity to really understand their backgrounds, their hobbies and how they like to spend their time – all of which will be invaluable in future design decisions.

One other very important message that came out my conversations with the residents was how difficult it can be to live in a place that is still being developed and the importance of appointing a contractor that understands the requirements of the care sector. Large retirement villages necessitate multi-phase construction and we need to remember that whilst building works may still be under way, the village is already a home to many people who don’t want to feel as if they are living in the middle of a construction site.

In that regard, it was really encouraging to hear such positive comments about Castleoak, the property solutions company for Phase II of Bishopstoke Park. Castleoak have a huge task on their hands, building a large number of units in close proximity to existing apartments and the care home, yet it was overwhelmingly apparent from my conversations with residents that they are friendly, clean, tidy, and – importantly – communicate with residents in a clear and engaging way so they know what is happening and when it’s happening – this in itself is a positive aspect as it brings interest, activity and excitement to the life of the village.

Indeed, my 24-hour stay at Bishopstoke Park proved to be a truly positive experience. Whilst residents were aware of certain issues or mistakes – whether operational or design decisions – they also understood that I wasn’t there to change Bishopstoke Park, but to influence future development. In this they were really happy to participate, content that we are still listening to them, ensuring that they can and will change something for somebody in the future and that they are still able to influence decisions.

We believe that every architect should take the time to go back and learn from each of their schemes – assess, evaluate and then apply those learnings to new schemes. In doing so, we will not only improve the buildings we design in the future, but also improve the lives of the people who will live and work within them.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
Senior Living Europe

Making connections – Seeking out new models for senior living in Europe

December 21st, 2017 Posted by All, Senior Living

This January, Urban Edge Architecture is undertaking a study tour of several care homes and senior living accommodation schemes in the Netherlands with students from the University of Lincoln.

Our trip to the Netherlands, follows a visit made to three care homes in Denmark in September last year where I was particularly struck by the example of Bomi-Parken care home, part of the Gyldenrisparken residential complex in Copenhagen. At Bomi-Parken there are no fences or gates and the care home is physically linked with the housing and schools that surround it, as well as being near to a local neighbourhood shopping centre. The elderly can interact with families and children going about their daily activities and greatly helps to combat loneliness and keep minds active.

The example of Bomi-Parken and its physical connections to the surrounding community couldn’t be in starker contrast to many of the senior living and care home facilities we see in the UK, which often isolate older people from their local communities. Yet older people are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities – and in doing so they also represent a new strand of consumer – the ‘silver pound’ – which is forecast to grow by 81 percent by 2030.

At Urban Edge Architecture we believe that senior living needs to be provided within our towns and cities and we are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. We are therefore always keen to further our knowledge of these types of development and plan to visit the four schemes in the Netherlands to not only get a better understanding of the advantages of connecting care homes and senior living with the wider community, but also to consider the challenges and how these could be overcome.

There are four schemes that we are looking to visit – most famous of which is Wozoco, an apartment complex for elderly people in the centre of Amsterdam. Renowned for its inventive architectural approach – several of its 100 units are cantilevered on the building’s North façade – our interest lies in its urban location and connection to the surrounding amenities. Whilst in Amsterdam, we’ll also be taking a look at Silodam, a mixed development of 157 houses, offices, work and commercial spaces that is fast becoming an exemplar of multigenerational living.

In the riverside town of Deventer we will pay a visit to the Residential and Care Centre Humanitas, a long-term care facility that also doubles as a student dorm. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in the centre’s vacant rooms free of charge. It’s an excellent example of intergenerational living and we’re looking forward to meeting with residents, students and management to discuss the benefits of multigenerational integration. For our students, they will not only get to see first hand how a mixed-use and multigenerational project works, but they will also need to be in fine voice as ‘payment’ for our visit will see them entertaining residents by singing at the dinner table!

If time allows, we also hope to stop off at the Hogeweyk Dementia Village in Weesp. This small village on the edge of Amsterdam has 23 apartments and a care home for people with dementia, but unlike many traditional dementia-care homes, residents at Hogeweyk are encouraged to be active – they manage their own households, shop at the local Hogeweyk supermarket and enjoy the other facilities the village has to offer such as a hairdresser, restaurant bar and theatre.

You’ll have noticed a common theme here: care homes and senior living schemes which are physically connected with the wider community – that’s our interest and it’s a model we feel needs to be further encouraged in the UK.

In the UK, the current focus appears to be on senior living at the high end of the market – luxurious care villages, often located in the South East, which are based on New Zealand and Australian models. Yet the issue of an ageing population affects all parts of the country, from North to South, and across a variety of social strata. It is our view that we should be looking into mid-market models based on the Scandinavian and Dutch approaches that allow for multigenerational integration and connect with the wider community through communal services.

Following our visit, we will publish some of our thoughts and impressions here. We’ll also let you know how the students got on singing for their supper! Stay tuned…

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Senior living

A new urban approach to senior living

June 6th, 2017 Posted by All, Senior Living

Urban environments are becoming senior living hot spots.

How can urban environments best support an ageing population? This question poses unique challenges and demands original thinking. We must take into account an individual’s independence, quality of life and care requirements, balanced against their personal finances and that of the public sector.

At Urban Edge we believe that senior living, which meets the demands of age 65+ residents, needs to be provided within our towns and cities. We think that the social, cultural and transportational benefits that come with living in an urban environment should be enjoyed by all ages.

We are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. This complements the wider community’s dining, leisure and retail experience, something that cannot be replicated in typical out-of-town village settlements.

We think that the opportunity for the aged 65+ group to significantly contribute to the positive experience of life in the city is something that should prove a crucial design driver for architects and urbanists over the coming decades. We are encouraging Local Government to support this movement.

There is an increasing number of active, healthy members of society approaching (or beyond) retirement age who are still engaged in leisure and cultural pursuits. With this will to participate in mainstream society, this group of 65+ are in an exciting phase of life. One which could potentially afford new freedoms and opportunities: a cohort fully able to contribute to our society and the economy. At Urban Edge we are keen to encourage that.

Sonia Parol | Associate Director