Designing for an aging population

How do we want to live for the rest of our lives and what is the shape of the community that meets the needs as we age? Architects Byron Kuth and Elizabeth Ranieri answer in an interview with ArchNewsNow editors.

ECO Commons proposal for senior living in Leavittown

By 2040, the baby boomers are projected to make up almost 20 percent of the population. The feisty generation that led major social movements is also making an impact on the way communities are designed and developed. ArchNewsNow interviewed Byron Kuth and Elizabeth Ranieri of Kuth/Ranieri Architects in San Francisco and discussed the designers' approach to redesigning senior living.

Designing for their own aging families pushed Kuth and Ranieri to think about the needs of seniors and architecture's role in providing answers to the questions revolving around aging, community, mobility, and quality of life.

Kuth offers his thoughts on where the elder population will live as they age:

Ultimately, suburbia will be the location for new forms of senior living because of the significant aging-at-home movement. And the suburbs are where the biggest aging demographic is. In investigating new ways of creating communities for the elderly, there is also an opportunity to recognize virtues that may have value for other project types, for all generations. Virtues like a walkable community, good public transportation, a mix of uses.

Key features the architects found in their research based designs include
1. Rejecting isolation
2. Elder communities in suburbs
3. An inter-generational mix
4. Higher density of mixed use programs
5. Choice of levels of social interaction

Diagram of ECO Commons proposal for senior living in Leavittown

The designers see promise in expanding University Based Retirement Communities (UBRCs, communities located on or near college campuses geared towards alumni) into the broader community. Socially, the opportunities for learning and involvement benefit the older residents. Economically, developers and universities can invest in the large parcels of empty office parks and shopping centers that need to be redeveloped.

Kuth/Ranieri Architects' responses to the new aging social structure make sense in light of the growing, aging population. Their ideas for suburban interventions apply to how we all would like to live.

Mixing It Up with Elders: An Interview with Byron Kuth and Liz Ranieri [ArchNewsNow]
Images: Kuth/Ranieri Architects via ArchNewsNow

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com