Updated: Jun 25, 2021
SPACES FOR OUR ELDERLY TO THRIVE IN
When we think about creating spaces for inclusivity, it is easy to get caught up in the technicalities of designing a space: Are our buildings retrofitted with lifts and ramps to make them wheelchair accessible? Do we have large, bold signages for easier visibility or perhaps, enough sitting spaces for them to find rest when walking around… the list could go on.
Inclusivity beyond physical space
But, creating an inclusive space where our elderly can move around independently and with ease is more than just addressing their physical needs in spatial design. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an Age-Friendly City as a city that, “adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities”. This extends beyond the matters of outdoor spaces, transportation and housing and to essential aspects of urban living like social inclusion, civic participation, community support and so on.
Hence, when it comes to creating spaces for our elderly, can we make our city not just safer to live in but a place for our elderly to thrive in? You may think that Singapore is already doing really well and there are a lot of resources devoted to facilitating independent and active ageing in Singapore, what more is there to do? As a nation, can we be doing better? The answer is of course, yes!
A matter of integration
Creating inclusive spaces for our elderly to thrive in, extends beyond just meeting the physical needs associated with ageing. Designers and Architects must ask if spaces can be better designed and built to meet our seniors’ emotional and mental needs as well. Are we designing spaces to empower the seniors and help them live with dignity and independently? Do we have spaces that integrate rather than separate them from the rest of society? Do we have opportunities where the elderly can engage in civic life comfortably and with ease? Do we have common spaces that encourage intergenerational interactions in organic yet intentional ways? These things matter because these are essential aspects to making Singapore an elderly-friendly, inclusive city.
Creating new spaces
One example of such a new development created for seniors is Kampung Admiralty. Kampung Admiralty, also known as Singapore’s first “retirement kampung”, is a prototype of how public housing projects can be designed to meet the needs of Singapore’s ageing population by maximising land use and incorporating a bevy of public amenities and services into one residential area. Designed with common spaces like ‘buddy benches”, a community living room known as the People’s Plaza and nearby hawker centres, the residential estate is meant to foster communication and a sense of community amongst its elderly residents. This is so they can remain active and engage in social and civic participation, reducing the risk of social isolation.
Kampung Admiralty was built with a specific intention in mind: to carve out a new mixed facilities residential space for elderly citizens to reside together and remain active and socially engaged as they aged. Although efforts were made to facilitate intergenerational interactions – building childcare and eldercare facilities side by side, the community predominantly consists of the elderly residents residing in the 104 units in the estate.
Transforming old spaces While Kampung Admiralty is one example of how new spaces can created to support our elderly residents in active ageing, we also want to look at what can be done to existing spaces already built to achieve this same objective of active ageing, And for that, we look towards, “Second Beginnings” - a study by our friend, COLOURS Collectively Ours and commissioned by Lien Foundation to create 10 architectural typologies that transform under-used spaces into thriving communities to redefine senior living
With an intentional focus given to underused spaces, the project embodies the notion of “doing what we can with what we already have” and suggests improvements that can be made to various areas around Singapore for elderly citizens around the nation to benefit from. Examples listed in their e-book include transforming an old school building into an intergenerational hostel and learning centre, transportation alternatives that combine entertainment with much needed access to healthcare services and many more!
This project is just a glimpse into the many possibilities of what can be done to improve the spaces that people – both elderly and the young – are already living in so that we are able to better the ageing experience for all of Singapore’s seniors. The project also emphasises on intergenerational living and interactions because there is a need to integrate our elderly with the rest of society and have younger Singaporeans supporting our seniors in the community as they live and age together.
Kampung Admiralty and Second Beginnings – are just 2 examples of Singapore’s many efforts to empower seniors by improving their ageing experience and eldercare for our seniors. There is indeed much more to be done so we are excited for all that is to come as Singapore’s eldercare scene continues to change and innovate.
As we design physical spaces that encourage intergenerational interactions and build community bonds, we hope that such interactions will inspire empathy in Singaporeans for our elderly community leading to better care and better design, to empower them to live in dignity. The young of today are the aged of tomorrow and so, we hope that as we design spaces mindful of the holistic needs of the elderly, we can better understand what inclusivity can look like.
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