Higher life expectancy, falling fertility levels and a maturing baby boomer generation are just some of the reasons why Australia’s ageing population is rapidly increasing in number, with the coming decades expected to see a massive shift in the make-up of the demographic.
Over the next 40 years, it is predicted that the proportion of people aged 65 years and over will increase from 13 percent to 24 percent ; and the proportion of people aged 85 years and over will increase from 1.6 percent to 6 percent .
A rapidly ageing population will have a significant impact on society as well as the economy. Architects, designers and specifiers will be called upon to address the unique challenges of designing a built environment that meet the changing needs of occupants over their lifetimes.
Independent living and ageing in place
While aged care facilities continue to remain a preferred option for the elderly population, there are many from the baby boomer generation who would like to continue living independent lifestyles and exercise autonomy in their decision-making. The concept of ‘ageing in place’ is central to the desire for independent living.
Ageing in place refers to the ability to live in one’s own home and community – safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level . Eight out of ten baby boomers prefer to stay in their current homes for as long as possible ; for the architecture and building industry, this means homes must be designed to accommodate the changing needs of residents as they grow old.
Livable Housing Australia, a community, government, and industry partnership promoting liveable home design, has identified four key design features that support ageing in place. A home should be easy to enter; be easy to navigate in and around; be capable of easy and cost-effective adaptation, and, be responsive to the changing needs of home occupants .
Architects can reference these guidelines to enable key living spaces to be more easily and cost-effectively adapted to meet the changing needs and abilities of home occupants such as ageing baby boomers, and those living with disabilities acquired with age.
The primary objective of liveable home design is to help provide both comfort and quality of life to occupants while greatly reducing future costs.
A report from Housing and Independent Living from NSW Family & Community Services found that 62 percent of all falls and slip-based injuries occur at home. Very importantly, the cost to the homeowner for including key liveable housing design features is 22 times more efficient than retrofitting after an unplanned need .
If liveable housing features are integrated during the design stage, it will help reduce the risk of fall and slip incidents.
As one of the most used areas in the house, bathrooms are a high-risk zone for slips and falls. However, a recent report has found that most bathrooms do not comply with AS 4299 Adaptable Housing .
For ageing in place to succeed, the bathroom should have the flexibility to accommodate the evolving requirements of the occupants as their levels of mobility and independence change over time.
According to the Housing and Independent Living report, 96 percent of people did not provide for a folding seat in the shower; 80 percent did not have a grab rail in the shower recess; and 40 percent did not have an easy to reach shower tap .
Con-Serv Corporation Australia has made considerable investment in research and development for creating products specifically designed to assist Australia’s ageing population.
Con-Serv assists architects, designers and specifiers in creating liveable spaces that address the evolving requirements of Australia’s ageing population, thereby, encouraging people of different abilities to live independently in a safe, functional and aesthetic environment. Con-Serv’s comprehensive testing regime ensures their products meet the requirements of applicable Australian Standards.
Con-Serv offers a range of products and bathroom accessories to cover every aspect of bathroom functionality, from shower systems to grab rails, and shower seats to toilet backrests.
Domestic and commercial grab rails offer flexible solutions for assisted living, aged care, and healthcare installations.
Grab rail showers provide extra support and comfort when needed.
A support device for toilets that improves the comfort of the user, the backrest simultaneously provides an acceptable level of safety for the disabled, aged and infirm.
Safe-Assist Folding Shower Seats
Specially designed for the shower area to allow the user to shower in a sitting position, shower seats offer a safe experience for people who are unable to, or find it difficult to shower while standing.