Healthy Spaces & Places Healthy Spaces & Places

Development Types

Retirement Accomodation - Full Text

Introduction

Australia has an ageing population and by 2056 up to one quarter of Australia’s population will be aged 65 or older.  Australia's population, like that of most developed countries, is ageing as a result of sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy (ABS, 2008).  Most people choose to live in their own home or downsize within the same community.  However retirement accommodation increasingly is providing another housing option for the elderly.

Aged Care Crossing
Pedestrian crossing for Aged, Canberra
Source: Planning Institute of Australia

Generally retirement accommodation provides for people over 55 years of age though the average age of residents is generally higher.  There is a variety of accommodation options which include self-care units which are either unserviced or serviced, hostels or nursing homes.  Retirement accommodation may be stand alone villas, units or apartments (Department for Communities, 2009).

Whilst it is estimated that only around 5.25 per cent of people over 65 years live in retirement villages this proportion is steadily increasing, up from 3-3.5 per cent around nine years ago.  To cater for the expected increase in demand it is estimated that an additional 140,000 new dwellings in retirement accommodation will be needed in the next 15 years which equates to 8 per cent of the new residential housing market (Jones Lang LaSalle, 2009).

PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS

Like the general population, older people can achieve significant health benefits from walking.  There are also a range of social and mental health benefits from having increased interaction with a range of age groups in the community through walking or using public transport. 

Retirement accommodation that is integrated into the community is well placed to encourage active living by residents including walking to facilities and using public transport.

Unfortunately some retirement accommodation is being located in areas which provide little opportunity for residents to undertake physical activity or social interaction within or outside of the accommodation.  Some are also located a considerable distance from services and activities.
 

Retirement Village
Retirement Village Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Source: Planning Institute of Australi
a

Spatial Location

When establishing retirement accommodation, consideration should be given to having the following activities within walking distance:

  • shops and services (such as medical services)
  • recreation and open space
  • transport networks especially public transport, and
  • other land uses that promote social interaction such as mixed-use development, public spaces and community uses such as children’s activities.

Retirement Accommodation
Walkways and road crossings near retirement
Accommodation need to accommodate motorised scooters
Source: Billie Giles Corti

Transport Network and Design

To encourage physical and social activity for older people, the transport network needs to be age friendly and have attention to detailed design such as safety, road crossings, visibility, seating, signage, footpath widths, pathway surfaces and shelter.

Ideally the transport network should include opportunities for independent travel such as public transport and walking and be wide enough to accommodate motorised scooters.

The built environment and associated transport services have a major impact on mobility and independence. Characteristics of the urban landscape and built environment that contribute to the quality of life for older people include:

  • pedestrian, wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly walkways
  • outdoor seating, particularly in parks and along pathways
  • transport stops and public spaces
  • well-designed roads with safe crossings for older pedestrians
  • public safety in all open spaces and buildings
  • services that are clustered close to where older people live and shop
  • buildings with lifts, escalators, ramps, wide doorways and passages, adequate signage and non-slip flooring, and 
  • car parks that allow easy entry and exit for older people making their way from their car to shops and services (Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, 2009).
Health & Planning Fact
There are many health and lifestyle benefits of physical activity for older adults. People with an active lifestyle feel healthier and have an improved sense of wellbeing. Beside feeling better, physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and diabetes (NSW Sport and Recreation, 2009).  Walking is an excellent form of exercise for the elderly, since it is low impact, free and high in health benefits (Victorian Government – Disability On-Line, 2009).

Social participation is recognised as particularly important for seniors’ quality of life. Social participation helps to prevent the debilitating effects of isolation, and contributes to improvements in health and wellbeing.


Safety
In some areas, retirement villages have become very large, and safety and management priorities have led to these villages becoming impermeable and fortressed by perimeter walls. This can have a negative effect on the safety and accessibility of the neighbourhood and should to be avoided.  Retirement accommodation should integrate with the surrounding neighbourhood and not undermine accessibility for residents.

Supporting infrastructure adjoining or near to retirement accommodation should consider safety issues and the needs of the elderly.

See Healthy Spaces and Places Design Principles: Supporting Infrastructure and Safety and Surveillance for further information.

 

Retirement Village
Click image for larger version

Source: TPG Town Planning and Urban Design

Urban Integration

In some areas, retirement villages have become very large, and safety and management priorities have led to these villages becoming impermeable and fortressed by perimeter walls. This can have a negative effect on the safety and accessibility of the neighbourhood and should to be avoided.  Retirement accommodation should integrate with the surrounding neighbourhood and not undermine accessibility for residents.

Supporting infrastructure adjoining or near to retirement accommodation should consider safety issues and the needs of the elderly.

See Healthy Spaces and Places Design Principles: Supporting Infrastructure and Safety and Surveillance for further information.

PRACTICE ADVICE

Good Practice

The location of new retirement accommodation is an important consideration in order to support active living options for the residents.  Retirement accommodation should be at locations which are within easy walking distances to commercial, community and public transport facilities (adapted from Sunshine Coast Regional Council Code, 2009).

Optimum Practice

  • New retirement accommodation should be located within 400-800 metres of public transport, commercial and community facilities.
  • Retirement accommodation should not undermine the walkability of a neighbourhood.  They should not significantly exceed standard street block dimensions without having public through links with a street-like character.
  • Pathways and road crossings near to retirement accommodation should be safe and suitable for older people.
  • The design of internal circulation within retirement villages should follow the same principles of design as regular streets ensuring safe, efficient and convenient access for all users.

Avoid

  • Locating in areas that are remote from commercial and community facilities and public transport.
  • Having public areas or pedestrian pathways near retirement accommodation that are unsafe or unsuitable for older people such as badly maintained footpaths that may cause falls and injuries
  • Fortress walls around retirement accommodation.

REFERENCES

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008, Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories - June 2008, Australian Government, Canberra.
http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/MF/3201.0 viewed 3 March 2009

Department for Communities Western Australia Seniors Resources Online http://www.community.wa.gov.au/DFC/Communities/Seniors/Retirement+Planning/Living_arrangements.htm viewed 3 March 2009.

Department of Planning and Community Development Victoria, 2008, Ageing in Victoria: Discussion Paper http://www.seniors.vic.gov.au/Web19/osv/rwpgslib.nsf/GraphicFiles/Ageing+in+Victoria+discussion+paper/$file
/Ageing+Vic+Discussion+Paper_WEB.pdf
viewed 3 March 2009.

Jones Lang Lasalle Emerging retirement hotspots identified as demand for retirement accommodation rises http://www.joneslanglasalle.com.au/Australia/en-AU/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?ItemID=7363 viewed 3 March 2009.

NSW Sport and Recreation Physical activity for older adults http://www.dsr.nsw.gov.au/active/tips_older.asp viewed 3 March 2009

Sunshine Coast Regional Council Code for Retirement Villages and Residential Care Facilities
http://ww.maroochy.qld.gov.au/site/superseded/volume_4/04_res_development/04_11.html viewed 3 March 2009

Victorian Government – Disability On-line
http://www.disability.vic.gov.au/dsonline/dsarticles.nsf/pages/Walking_tips?OpenDocument viewed 3 March 2009

Last updated on 17th August, 2009

Sponsors This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.