Careful consideration will put in place a hierarchy of streets – from main through-routes to cul-de-sacs or lanes – that are legible and walkable, and create a chain of connected spaces with a social heart.
How we design these connected spaces – though planting, seating, lighting, and the public frontages of the buildings – is what provides a distinctive and recognisable identity to the village that encourages residents to take ownership of their living environment and surroundings.
Shared gardens, a café, open spaces for special events like a farmers’ market, and on-site playgrounds are among the most sought-after amenities. These features are seen to have a positive impact in retaining inter-generational connections, while also providing a legible ‘village green’ social centre that encourages residents to get out and about and enjoy nature-led activities and outdoor fitness opportunities.Interaction is increasingly recognised as essential to older peoples’ well-being. In the past, even the most sought-after senior living facilities often forgot the human need for socialisation in their design.
With a focus on preserving independence, opportunities for communal experiences and encounters were seen as a secondary consideration and unintentionally reduced.
In the late 1980s and ’90s, the emphasis was on individual units for independent living. These facilities were much more internally focussed and tended to have a rather formal entrance and quite structured flower beds that were for looking at, rather than a community asset that residents are encouraged to be involved with.
More recently, there has been a transition from this lower density development to apartment-style living, and there is a concurrent change to a communal landscape for activity.
For seniors, particularly those living with physical limitations, ‘active’ is a relative description and may be better expressed as having access to, and moving within, the outdoor environment. So, we provide opportunity for independent walking, being pushed in a wheelchair, or using an electric wheelchair.