Retirement Living is changing. The days of a group of flats or bungalows with a communal lounge are gone, as today’s senior citizens demand more facilities to meet their increasingly active lives. Here are just some of the innovations in the sector from across the World.
Regeneration of commercial properties
In the UK, The Guardian newspaper has recently reported that a number of developers are buying former shops and offices, closed during or shortly after the covid lockdowns, and turning them into retirement complexes. In doing so, not only are they helping to regenerate rundown areas but are also meeting the needs of older people who want to be closer to bustling city centres for socialising, eating out, shopping and cultural pursuits. Indeed, the Guardian states that several retirement village builders reported that inquiries for retirement housing jumped during the Covid crisis, with more people feeling isolated and lonely.
Writing in Seniors Guide Rachel Marsh says that in the USA the importance of intergenerationality is becoming recognised, and developers are finding ways to incorporate interactions with younger people into their residents’ daily lives. This can be by building links with local schools, with children visiting to perform plays or music; some facilities have even set up mentor programs between high school students and residents. Another big trend, she notes, is bringing daycare facilities into independent living communities, which gives toddlers and senior citizens a chance to interact with an entirely different generation. This can be beneficial to both, particularly for those children who do not have or do not see their grandparents; and those senior citizens who do not have or see their grandchildren.
Rachel Marsh also states that in the USA, design is becoming a more integral aspect of planning an independent living community; with some designing their interiors to resemble that of a hotel. They are also focusing on the importance of fresh air and the great outdoors for residents and visitors; with communal outdoor spaces now more spacious, more usable, and more inviting.
Throughout the past year we have all become used to using technology in ways we probably didn’t think possible. In Japan, a company called Informetis has introduced a technology called non-intrusive load monitoring, or NILM, which brings reassurance to families of older people who are living independently.
A journalist writing for the BBC has tried it out with his parents. The technology uses a sensor in the electricity meter cupboard which measures the electrical signal, and algorithms then examine the "noise" on the signal to work out which home appliances are in use. This produces an overview of appliance usage, to build up a picture of the user’s daily habits, and then sends alerts if things alter significantly. This can be, for example, if the oven is left on overnight or the toaster is used at a very early or late hour.
Informetis is keen to point out that "Our technology is all about peace of mind," rather than for medical purposes, but it could be used to enable people to stay safely independent for longer.
It is very likely that out of the pandemic will come many ideas and innovations for how things can be done better and differently for every generation. That many of these innovations, such as some of those detailed above, will have a positive effect on the lives of older people can only be welcomed.