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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Retirement housing: towards a comprehensive planning and design approach Sharp, Ross William

Abstract

Over the past fifteen years multiple housing for the elderly has assumed a growing importance in the Canadian housing scene. Planners, Architects and Financiers have combined their efforts to produce a variety of attractive, functional and socially positive multiple housing environments for the aged. This thesis, through a case study evaluation of two recently completed highrise retirement centres and an extensive literature review of current and past research, will identify and evaluate many of the planning and design considerations that have evolved within the search for an optimal living environment for the aged. The planning, designing and constructing of multiple housing developments for older people often take place without enough consideration being given to those limiting characteristics which are a result of the aging process. It is a fact that advancing years do impose many and varied limitations on the daily living habits of the aged. This thesis supports the claim that knowledge of such common limiting characteristics is imperative to the design process. A literature review covering the common physiological, psychological, economic and social characteristics of aging is thus provided. Much of the past research concerned with multiple housing for the aged has focussed on design and planning considerations related to a single aspect of the ageds' residential environment. The site, for example, is often examined in isolation from the surrounding neighbourhood. This thesis is based on the conviction that a constructive planning approach must involve a comprehensive and simultaneous examination of design and planning considerations pertaining to the suite, building, site and neighbourhood. This thesis covers the five defined areas cited below: 1) the design and features of common spaces; 2) the design and features of bachelor, one bedroom and board residence suites; 3) the planning and design of building sites; 4) neighbourhood and locational design and planning considerations; 5) preference and generalized housing questions. A literature review covering current and past design and planning considerations as outlined by the foregoing defined areas represented the initial phase of analysis. This review not only outlined varying considerations but also attempted to explain the rationale for them in terms of the needs and limitations of the aged. The second phase of the analysis involved a description of particular elements and spaces within two highrise retirement complexes in the Municipality of Burnaby, New Vista and Seton Villa. Photographs, and sketches supplement the verbal descriptions of existing features, rooms and areas. The final phase of analysis was based on data obtained from in-depth interviews conducted with forty respondents living at New Vista and Seton Villa. The intent of this phase was to ascertain the extent to which residential accommodation built in accordance with existing planning and design guidelines meets the needs and desires of elderly folk. The results of the interviews indicate that older people do have opinions with regard to what they consider good planning and design. The respondents were not only able to indicate the positive and negative aspects of planning and design considerations, but they also provided a number of suggestions in terms of how such considerations could be improved to better meet their needs. The most significant conclusions that can be drawn from this thesis are presented below: 1) Those responsible for the provision of housing for the aged should possess a basic understanding of those theories of aging which are applicable to planning and design. 2) Planners, Architects and Financiers must be familiar with the common characteristics of the aged in order to fully understand the significance of various design guidelines that pertain to the suite, building, site and neighbourhood. By developing a greater sensitivity to the problems of the elderly, planners and designers will be able to improve upon what has been built in the past. 3) It is important for those responsible for housing the aged to be aware of the views and suggestions the aged have toward planning and design considerations in order to be able to judge the merits and downfalls of existing design and planning provisions. Many existing provisions do not meet the desires of the elderly, while a lesser number do not even meet the most basic of the elderly's needs. In the future our society will be made up of an even greater proportion of elderly than exists today. People are simply living longer and the trend will likely continue. This fact implies that increasing pressure will be applied by this group in demanding housing that meets their needs and aspirations. It is no longer feasible for Planners and Architects to follow established sets of planning standards and design criteria without further examining the points made in the conclusions expressed above. This thesis will outline the major concerns that must be examined in order to evolve a comprehensive planning approach, capable of promoting a positive residential environment for the aged.

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