Senior living as we know it has retired thanks to the designers, innovators, planners and seniors that gathered together to rethink the future of community living as part of the Longevity by Design charrette, hosted by The University of Queensland and DMA Engineers. 

The charrette brought together thought leaders and professionals across a broad range of industries involved in designing for longevity, to build on the foundations of The University of Queensland’s Healthy Ageing Initiative. 

The University of Queensland’s Director of the Healthy Ageing Initiative, Professor Laurie Buys, says the charrette has come at a time when we’re at a crossroads where we can decide whether Australia’s ageing population is a burden or an opportunity. 

“Older people are thinking and acting very differently than ever before and we know that future generations of older people will have very high expectations about maintaining their engaged lifestyles. 

“The charrette was an opportunity to come together and work with people from different disciplines, but most importantly with industry who are thinking differently, to challenge the way we see, design, and create change. 

More than 120 participants took part in the charrette, which was initiated and designed by DMA Engineers, in partnership with The University of Queensland. 
DMA Engineers Managing Director, Russell Lamb, says the idea was born from a recognition that there’s a stagnation in the way we design.

“As building services consulting engineers, typically we’re involved in the concept stages and design of how aged care and retirement facilities are put together, so we thought the charrette was a great opportunity for us to actually have genuine input into the future of this process,” Mr Lamb said. 

“As an industry, we talk a lot about the innovation that we all do in our various disciplines, but ultimately we’re not doing enough.” 

Teams had a choice of three localities in the Redlands, on Brisbane’s bayside, to work on, where they were challenged to create visionary, innovative and highly connected designs to meet the needs of an intergenerational community in 2050. 

Director of Subtropical Cities and facilitator of the Longevity by Design charrette, Dr Rosemary Kennedy, says traditional, walled retirement villages and separate seniors’ enclaves have had their day. 

“Many of the ideas proposed by the teams shared a common thread of physical and social connectedness, which are both key to promoting increased choice, economic development and job creation.” 

“Ideas ranged from ‘super blocks’ that reconfigure three typical suburban house blocks into five multi- generational residences, to new economic models.”

“The teams visualised spaces designed to enable older people to continue to be creative and productive, rather than just existing in places padded with amenities and activities to pass the time that actually push them further into dependence.” 

“Rather than being set apart from the community, the teams developed concepts of specialist knowledge and skills centres driven by community interests and needs that would be distributed within short distances of the hub and connected by free and frequent automated public buses and electric vehicle ride share.” 

“Connectedness and sharing might sound obvious and what we all might want, but the Longevity by Design teams showed what the ‘longevity’ economy could look like.”