Matthew Hutchinson is a registered architect and PhD candidate in the School of Design. In early 2016 he moved to full time research after 25 years in architectural practice. His most recent position was as a Partner and National Sector Leader in Seniors Living design for ThomsonAdsett. In this role Matthew was responsible for the strategic design and business direction of the firm’s Seniors Living sector and spoke regularly at Industry conferences. His current research is investigating new housing typologies to serve Australia’s ageing population. Matthew considers that relevant other housing typologies for seniors may emerge through a considered review of the socio-economic, policy and environmental forces bearing on this sector.
A Typological Study of Housing for Seniors in Australia – What next?
Australia is facing the prospect of a serious shortage of appropriate housing for its ageing population. Compounding factors causing this shortage are the increasing average age of the population, changes in government policy in and around provision of publicly funded aged care services, a history and legacy of increasingly out-moded building paradigms for older Australians, growing unaffordability of housing, disparate legislative paradigms, and complicated and ill-informed development planning processes working against innovation. Current research is establishing that historical traditional types of seniors specific housing are increasingly failing to meet demands of the present and emerging market. The widely proclaimed preference to age in place is threatened by: our current housing stock which is mostly inappropriate for failing bodies and faculties; a property market that deters or excludes growing numbers of older Australians from moving or buying; and historic development patterns of our suburbs, which do not appropriately support socialisation of older persons increasingly isolated due to declining mobility and lack of public transport options. The corporate quality of our wellbeing, significantly influenced by our relationship with our place of abode, has the potential to become a national crisis of ontological security when so many older Australians, are unable to find and retain suitable accommodation. Unless relevant responses are found, this shortage of appropriate housing may well indirectly add to the public health and infrastructure resource burden, in what is likely to be a different socio-economic landscape in the future. Though the call for new typologies is well represented in the literature, a scarcity of exemplary research exists in response. By reviewing the present ecology of seniors housing and care in Australia, this study aims to explore potential new housing typologies that are physically appropriate, socially supportive and financially accessible and add to the knowledge around and potential solutions for this growing national issue.