CONSTRUCTION INNOVATION: HOMES FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS OF THE AGEING POPULATION
Life expectancy in many European countries is on the rise, particularly in Spain, that implies that the buildings people live in, whether they are private homes or residencies for ageing people, should be adapted to their needs and requirements. Residential apartments and buildings, exclusive to those who have retired, are progressively making their way onto the Spanish construction market as an alternative to traditional homes.
In the past, the majority of Spanish homes were not built with the basic needs of the ageing population in mind. As a result, the condition of the living space where they are living is essential for them to maintain personal autonomy and a good quality of life. This has not gone unnoticed in Florida (USA) and in some European countries, where communities are being built exclusively designed for older aged individuals, so large they can almost be considered cities. These cities have family homes and buildings for leisure activities.
The advantage of these apartment complexes, generally located within larger cities, is focused on the fact that older people, from 60 onward, have a living space with one, two or three bedrooms in total, which they can personalise and adapt to their style and needs, feeling as if they were at home.
These residential complexes also offer medical assistance services and nursing attention as well as free access to internet. There are also common areas like restaurants, living rooms with a common television, library, press room, gym and game room.
Suggestions For Building Adaptations
Statistics show that 50% of people older than 80 fall at least once per year, and among those that fall, there is an even greater chance that they will fall again the year after. Below is a list of suggestions to better adapt buildings for the more elderly, ensuring they have the appropriate furniture and eliminating any obstacles placed in the way with the intent to prevent possible falls and injuries:
- Collect loose cables on the floor and other small obstacles that may cause someone to trip and fall.
- Leave a small light on during the darker hours to ensure that there is a reference if someone needs to get up.
- Place basic objects such as glasses, phone or water within reach.
- Remove carpets or make sure they are secured to the floor to avoid tripping over them.
- Place bars in the washroom next to the toilet, making sure that they are firmly in place.
- Include a chair inside of the shower to make the WC as safe as possible.
- Eliminate any small cabinets located above the sink, to ensure proper support.
- Wear rubber soled shoes on the floor to avoid slipping on account of losing one’s balance.
- Avoid the common house shoes that can cause falls and resulting breaks.
- Install a natural gas leak detector at home to easily find a possible leak.
- Incorporate a chair lift to make it easier to go up and down stairways.
General Recommendations for Buildings
According to a study carried out in 2017 by the University of Harvard on the study of living spaces, less than 10% of older people living the USA lived in houses equipped with the appropriate furniture for their circumstances of accessibility at home and the basic characteristic for a correctly equipped home. Among the more basic needs that were, in turn, ignored include accessing and exiting the buildings and the size of the doors.
It is necessary to bear in mind that the people in wheel chairs have a width of 60 to 71 cm, which implies that they may not be capable of reaching objects located on kitchen countertops or washroom sinks. The following is a detailed list of the general recommendations to keep in mind for adapting a building to the correct mobility of older people that use wheel chairs.
- Placing ramps in doorway access of buildings.
- Making doorways between 86 and 89 cm wide, to allow for easy access.
- Distributing electric plugs elevated to 45 cm of the normal height.
- Locating the light interrupters in the walls at 35 cm.
Rising Market Niche
There are many places in Europe, and particularly Spain, where residential complexes are rising outside of the offer of large residential businesses. For that reason, there are construction co-ops, small business groups and real- estate firms that have seen a future opportunity in this market niche for design and building constructions focused on the ageing population.
By the year 2031, it is estimated that the Spanish population of people older than 65 will represent 26% of the entire Spanish population, against the current 19% and the 8.2% that was represented in 1960. As a result of this demographic evolution, in the coming years there will be an increase in a type of residencies that cover the desires and needs of this segment of the population.
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