With the number of people over 60 within our country continuing to rise it is important for designers and developers to look fully at the needs of this section of the population. A large proportion of our clients are retired and through our work with them we have found that a lot of the previous assumptions that were made by developers about the types of space that they need and want are completely wrong. This article touches on the research we have completed into this and some of the themes and trends within this growing sector.
Our clients are passionate about good design and want to make sure their homes are reflective of their continuing active lifestyles. They want to feel they have a home that is the envy of their friends and that they can show off to family and relatives. Older people also want to feel current and up to date in their choices – in fact in our experience older clients are more adventurous than the younger clients and families we work with. Perhaps that’s because this is their opportunity to have exactly what they want without considering a future purchaser or how the market might develop. It’s also important to remember that a lot of these clients were exposed to contemporary design over 50 years ago and aren’t afraid to be bold in their choices.
So what are the older generation looking for in their homes right now? We are designing several new houses at the moment for retired and older clients and the following is an overview of the types of brief we are being given and the trends we are seeing.
Double height spaces with views of the sky are in high demand. Where as some developers might see this as a waste of space, our clients value the fact that this creates spaces that give us a better sense of well being and are uplifting to the spirit.
Open plan spaces with room for a large table, somewhere to sit for coffee and a lovely large contemporary kitchen with all the latest gadgets.
Cold rooms and larders are extremely popular now with lots of shelves – along the lines iconic larder in Nigela Lawson’s cookery programmes. These rooms naturally need to be placed on the north side of the house where possible and some clients are adding temperature controls.
Lots and lots of storage space is essential and storage rooms, corridors and storage walls feature as a part of our designs. We all accumulate so much stuff these days and the traditional loft space is becoming a thing of the past with open ceilings and mezzanines taking it’s place. A house with plenty of storage is now preferable to a house with plenty of toilets! Developers take note.
Timber frame and kit houses are being requested by clients a lot. The likes of Baufritz and Hans Haus are premium products with a price to match, but the ease and speed with which they are constructed makes them a popular choice.
Sustainable design is crucial to older clients, they understand that they have the opportunity to make sure their homes will be cheaper to run and better for the environment; not just for them but for their families in the future. This is not eco-bling or add on features, but ensuring that the fabric of the house is well insulated and sealed beyond building regulations requirements and that the materials used are sourced responsibly. Again the fact that a lot of the technology is cutting edge is a real attraction – our clients want to be ahead of the game and enjoy being new adopters.
We have frequently heard it said that if you design a product that appeals to a younger person today it will also be attractive to an older person. Age is now irrelevant what is important is good design. What this doesn’t take account of is that the older generation actually want to be ahead of the game, they want to be the ones taking risks and trying out new technology first. In my mind that makes designing for later living the most exciting sector to be working in right now. It could offer the opportunity for design, research and development that will help us create homes and environments that are better for all sections of the community.