New programme: Ageing Cities

As the fastest-growing demographic in the capital, older people will have a huge impact on the future of London. By 2035, the number of over-60s in London is expected to increase to almost two million; a 48% jump. The number of over-80s is set to rise by 70%. The built environment has a huge impact on the experience of ageing, affecting those who live, work or visit London.

Built environments professionals have a huge role to play to ensure the biggest demographic age group has a positive experience of growing old in the capital. To get this right, the implications for planning, design, services and management are wide-ranging and require a cross-disciplinary approach, including:

  • Housing: fostering typologies from the fit-50s offer to extra care and innovations in between, such as co-housing and intergenerational living; addressing the thorny question of releasing underused family homes; and enabling people to stay in their homes longer to reduce time in care.
  • Public realm and movement: responding to physical and perceptual concerns such as safety, legibility, quality of place and social spaces that support people to stay connected in their local community.
  • Partnerships: working with cross-sector partners to combat isolation, sustain or improve health and fine-tune services through social infrastructure.

Our initial research into this area has identified a number issues. For one, older people are often treated as a single homogenous group. The reality is that people over the age of 65 are a very diverse group with a broad range of needs and aspirations but most people in later life live in conventional housing which may not be suited to their needs. The over-60s ‘middle market’ (between sheltered housing and high end) is a huge segment currently under-catered for. A significant challenge is how to deliver a viable, affordable product for this market.

On top of this, there is a lack of consistency in the definitions of housing models such as Extra Care and interpretation of C2 and C3 planning use classes from authority to authority.

The NHS is also under extreme pressure. The built environment profession can work better with the health and care sectors to support older people’s health and well-being.

Supported by British Land, Barton Willmore, Pollard Thomas Edwards and Arup, the Ageing Cities project will collate information on activity across the capital. Through senior roundtables, workshops and site visits, we will build up a picture of how local authorities and housing associations are addressing the needs of the growing ageing population and identify opportunities to share experiences and innovation. Findings will be published as online articles as the project is rolled out and brought together in a final report with practical recommendations in early 2018.

Future London Leaders round 16 kick-started Ageing Cities earlier this year, visiting Older Women’s Co-Housing and the Jesus Hospital Charity almshouses in Barnet; learning about approaches to housing older residents from LB Camden, accessible public realm by Argent at King’s Cross and touring One Housing’s Roseberry Mansions. The Leaders were joined by older people’s groups the Islington Eyes and Hackney BEEs from The Building Exploratory to visit the Angel Building. Here Design Council, the Centre for Ageing Better and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network shared their insights from projects across the country.

More information