Are Sustainable Retirement Villages in Our Future?
Australia’s ageing population is having an impact on the approach taken to build retirement villages. To accommodate the unique needs of senior citizens, the construction of their housing requires a lot of special planning.
The number and proportion of older Australians is expected to continue to grow, generally as a by-product of the Baby Boom generation reaching older age. By 2056, it is projected there will be 8.7 million older Australians (22% of the population).
Australia’s ageing population is having an impact on the approach taken to build retirement villages.
According to a recent Census, Australian retirement villages already have a 92% occupancy rate, demonstrating the popularity of this option amongst senior citizens and those needing care in older age.
As the population ages, the construction of retirement villages will become increasingly vital to the organisation of a functioning society. We spoke to Associate Professor Bo Xia, from the School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment at The University of Technology, Queensland, to get his opinion on sustainable retirement village solutions.
Ecological Theory of Ageing
According to Assoc. Prof. Xia, the ecological theory of ageing is what should guide the planning and construction of retirement villages.
“Older adults’ competences and the environment should be in balance with each other,” he notes. “Our previous research demonstrates that retirement villages need to provide environmentally, economically and socially sustainable living environment for their residents.
“In terms of environmental sustainability, a retirement village should have a qualified physical environment with a suitable level of indoor environmental quality, energy efficiency, and security, as well as have easy accessibility and maintenance tasks.”
In order to increase independence, mobility, and quality of life, a retirement village should also facilitate active and healthy lifestyles for residents, creating opportunities to participate in different activities around the village and wider community.
Unique Construction for Unique Needs
It’s only natural that residents of retirement villages may spend more time indoors than others. Therefore, as Assoc. Prof. Xia notes, in order to accommodate such lifestyle in a sustainable way a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration.
“Solar energy and water systems, double brick external walls, and double glazed windows can be applied to reduce their energy cost in the long term,” he says.
“The reduction of energy costs can be also easily achieved through unit design solutions."
“The reduction of energy costs can be also easily achieved through unit design solutions. For example, each unit can be positioned to take full advantage of the natural sunlight, maximise the use of north-facing windows and minimise the number of east, west and south windows. It is also important to have south-facing windows to provide a cool breeze in the summer.”
Location, Location, Location
Assoc. Prof. Xia notes that the chosen construction site should be close to residential communities, shopping centres, and service providers, as being connected with the local community is best for maintaining relationships outside of the retirement village.
“In the retirement village planning, as senior residents may not be able to drive, their access to public or community transport has a significant impact, especially where service networks result in car dependence,” says Assoc. Prof. Xia.
“Many in the retiring Baby Boomer generation are highly involved in social activities, so retirement villages need to provide community belongingness and facilitate their ongoing participation in social activities.”