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Designing, Developing and Sustaining Later Lifestyles
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Many developed nations face the challenge of accommodating a growing, ageing population and creating appropriate forms of housing suitable for older people.

Written by an architect, this practice-led ethnography of retirement housing offers new perspectives on environmental gerontology. Through stories and visual vignettes, it presents a range of stakeholders involved in the design, construction, management and habitation of third-age housing in the UK, to highlight the importance of design decisions for the everyday lives of older people.

Drawing on unique and interdisciplinary research methods, its fresh approach shows researchers how well-designed retirement housing can enable older people to successfully age in place for longer, and challenges designers, developers and providers to evolve their design practices and products.

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Chapter 12 presents the position of the town planner working within a UK Local Planning Authority (LPA), and their vital role in development control – specifically regulation of housing for older people. Town planners are uniquely placed as public servants in-between housing providers and consumers and the interests of the wider public. This chapter includes a part-fictionalised account of a planning inquiry where two LPA representatives – ‘Victor’ and ‘Rachel’ – advance a case for refusal of planning permission against a retirement housing scheme. This story highlights the importance of well-resourced and expert LPA teams, to help shape and ensure good-quality built environments in support of societal needs. The chapter also examines regional planning policy and guidance in relation to retirement housing. It highlights an ongoing ‘identity problem’ with regards to retirement-living products and their passage through the English planning system. The story raises further concerns about limited resources, with individual town planners being apparently hard-to-reach and planning teams lacking specialist knowledge. The chapter also underlines the importance of planners having capacity for innovation and work that goes beyond protecting ‘what is’ – conserving existing built environments and maintaining existent policies – and investing in ‘what could be’ through creative facilitation and plan-making.

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Chapter 15 acknowledges the step change that has occurred within UK housing provisions for older people and changed attitudes within architectural practice. It suggests a new normal for architects, evidencing global ‘starchitects’ engaged in projects delivering contemporary housing for older people in different parts of the world. This closing chapter provides a counterpoint to the British retirement housing experience foregrounded in this volume. It turns readers’ attention to the global challenge of accommodating older people, with reference to an international housing market, retirement tourism and options for seasonal migration or relocation. The chapter explores housing as a global commodity; one increasingly designed and marketed around lifestyle – the promise of a better life in the sun, for instance – and to varying degrees, perpetuating forms of ‘luxury’ living. In doing so the chapter introduces readers to international precedent and design inspirations, including new forms of collective living that are predicated on different models of property ownership or renting, without compromising on lifestyle. The chapter closes with some thoughts for the future, including consideration for the significant and growing challenge of housing inequality and need for urgent responses to overlapping crises of access to affordable housing and the effects of climate change.

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Chapter 2 explores the evolution of specialist accommodation for older people, reaching as far back as medieval monastic orders and an extra-claustral building called the ‘farmery’ that housed clergymen deemed no longer fit for work. The chapter traces the emergence of a class of non-working elders as a growing population segment – known as the ‘deserving poor’ – and explores common living arrangements for those unable to work in later life. It considers progressive social provisions made within 19th-century workhouses, public assistance institutions and infirmaries in Britain, as well as parliamentary discourse that considered the need for ‘cottage homes’ to accommodate former staff members of country estates. The chapter also explores how different sovereign nations sought to accommodate former soldiers within veteran hospitals, such as Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, and how these represent an extreme form of communal living and social investment in a particular group of older people. More generally, the chapter examines almshousing as a distinct and lasting building type that has continued to evolve; its characteristics have been translated into contemporary specialist housing, including early models of what we now recognise as ‘sheltered housing’.

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Chapter 9 provides an overview of two instrumental built environment professionals within the retirement housing sector – architects and town planners – and their respective vocations, training and ethics, with reference to professional codes of conduct, governing bodies and authorities. The chapter explores some of the underlying values and motives of these professionals, specifically their commitment to work that has social purpose and serving the public interest, as well as clients and stakeholders. It also offers a reminder that housing has a role to play beyond simply providing shelter to individuals. Good housing has the potential to positively impact wider societal issues – such as social care – and to reach into the wider public realm, for instance, helping to shape and sustain communities as well as add value and character to the built environment of towns and cities.

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This book presents and interprets the stories of nine actors involved in the design, construction, management and habitation of third age housing in the UK. The primary motivation behind this book is to offer a creative practice research perspective to the field of gerontology – through anthropology by means of design – and, specifically, an architectural ‘insider’ view on the designed environments of retirement housing. One distinct intention of this work is to amplify the voice of architects among associated researchers, but also, through sharing aspects of the underlying multi-sited ethnography, give voice to some overlooked actors within the research field that are equally well-placed to contribute to design discussions of retirement-living products. Readers are invited to consider the question of how designers – professional or otherwise – can facilitate the wellbeing of older people in their homes, by optimising design details of these micro environments, in support of collective ambitions to age in place for as long as possible. Related to this, it is anticipated that readers might seek authentication of retirement housing – as products marketed as ‘specialist’ housing options – asking the question whether all housing should be age-friendly. The book is especially relevant to scholars in the fields of ageing and environmental gerontology, as well as architecture and the built environment. It will also appeal to industry professionals and practitioners from the housing sector more broadly. The visual vignettes and variety of writing approaches – from storytelling to reflective accounts – make this an accessible, transdisciplinary book. It may also be read by people preparing for later life.

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Chapter 10 contains a research story that captures the position of the architecture student responding to the dual challenges of designing housing and accommodating an aged population. The story is located within the academic design studio of a fictional architecture school and presents a composite student character, August, while reflecting upon empathic design approaches to designing retirement housing on a ‘live’ development site. It explores how architecture students think about designing for older people and, crucially, how they might extend their awareness of housing needs and occupant aspirations in later life. This reflective practitioner account posits that the academic design studio can provide a space to explore research methodologies, involving short-term ‘cultural immersion’ or ‘empathic modelling’ and other ‘fast ethnography’ techniques, resulting in meaningful stakeholder engagement and potential to generate knowledge for and from design. In these terms the design studio can create a safe place to challenge ethnocentrism and the practice of self-design, as well as to question mainstream architectural behaviours and identities perpetuated by ‘starchitects’. The chapter also offers a behind-the-scenes view of architectural education that serves to support greater mutual understanding between designers of the built environment and researchers in environmental gerontology.

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This book presents and interprets the stories of nine actors involved in the design, construction, management and habitation of third age housing in the UK. The primary motivation behind this book is to offer a creative practice research perspective to the field of gerontology – through anthropology by means of design – and, specifically, an architectural ‘insider’ view on the designed environments of retirement housing. One distinct intention of this work is to amplify the voice of architects among associated researchers, but also, through sharing aspects of the underlying multi-sited ethnography, give voice to some overlooked actors within the research field that are equally well-placed to contribute to design discussions of retirement-living products. Readers are invited to consider the question of how designers – professional or otherwise – can facilitate the wellbeing of older people in their homes, by optimising design details of these micro environments, in support of collective ambitions to age in place for as long as possible. Related to this, it is anticipated that readers might seek authentication of retirement housing – as products marketed as ‘specialist’ housing options – asking the question whether all housing should be age-friendly. The book is especially relevant to scholars in the fields of ageing and environmental gerontology, as well as architecture and the built environment. It will also appeal to industry professionals and practitioners from the housing sector more broadly. The visual vignettes and variety of writing approaches – from storytelling to reflective accounts – make this an accessible, transdisciplinary book. It may also be read by people preparing for later life.

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Chapter 8 reflects on the position of wardens and scheme managers – specifically villa managers – as personnel responsible for providing a concierge service to residents, and a facilities management service to property developers. The chapter provides background information on this group of workers and an exploration of the villa manager’s job description, including their role in the promotion and maintenance of the social architecture of the villa. Here the story proper takes the form of a ‘day in the life’ of Lindsey in her workplace, providing an account of the social world she helps to support and sustain. The story reflects upon the villa manager’s shifting position, necessitated by engagement with an array of stakeholders, ranging from employers to customers and visiting others. The story highlights the concerns of the villa manager, including ‘grey’ areas between customer expectations and customer care. It also portrays something of the challenges presented by an ageing cohort of residents with collective ambitions to reshape the villa environment – the shared lounge especially – and the villa manager’s potential to contribute towards design review of this setting. Thus this chapter shines a light on personnel that are expert in the maintenance of retirement living; an expertise that appears largely untapped.

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Chapter 7 examines the lived experiences of retirement housing residents, specifically mid-market consumers – those that have moved from owning familial homes to a retirement apartment. It presents narrative accounts of three part-fictional characters – Patrick, Gladys and Paula – that both affirm and contest assumed consumer profiles, while casting doubt on aspects of a property developer’s image of its customer. The research story reflects the positions of homeowners met in the field through a series of research residencies, which involved the researcher staying overnight and engaging in social events within shared lounges at a sample of retirement villas developed by Pink & Knight. Thus groups of resident owners contributed to an understanding of home identities and motives for moving, as well as candid feedback on the retirement-living lifestyle and product in which they are invested. Contextual interviews – conducted with informants inside their homes, walking and talking through their interiors – revealed tacit knowledge, including an array of domestic ‘niggles’ and ‘snags’ associated with their new home. Here residents expressed a deep appreciation for the social architecture, over and above the physical environment.

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