Grosvenor calls for age-friendly approach to city development

By Paul Norman - Monday, March 05, 2018 13:26

Development activity within cities needs to adapt to the "realities of a rapidly ageing population", according to a Grosvenor report which calls for more far-sighted action from the property industry as well as policy-makers to ensure that cities become more age-friendly.

The proportion of over 65s in OECD countries will rise from 16% to 25% by 2045, whilst the proportion of under 20s will shrink from 24% to 21% in the same time period. This equates to an additional 146m over 65s in OECD countries by 2045, or an extra 15,000 people reaching retirement age each day for the next 30 years. The report, entitled ‘Silver cities: planning for an ageing population’, highlights the impact that this demographic shift will have on the social and physical fabric of cities.

Graham Parry, Research Director, Grosvenor Group, said: An ageing population presents huge challenges to the way our cities function. It’s not just a question of mobility, which is what most people immediately tend to think of, it’s also about how we make homes, offices and retail spaces more suited to the needs of an elderly population.

“Evidence shows that most elderly people don’t move house in their later years, largely because of a lack of options within their communities, where they have their roots and networks. Yet, if the right products and incentives were available, more ‘last-time buyers’ would down-size from typically larger family homes to more suitable accommodation, in the process also making more family homes available for younger generations.”

Through the perspective of four different global cities that share the challenge of an ageing population - London, Hong Kong, Madrid and Vancouver – the report provides a snapshot of how the implications of an ageing population are being addressed, if at all, and highlights a number of potential solutions, which may help bring age-friendly development principles into the mainstream. These include:

  • Introducing incentives to encourage older home-owners to downsize and in turn relieve pressure on cities to provide more family homes.
  • Developing homes that fill the gap between the family home and senior housing. Current generations of elderly people are typically far more active than their predecessors and want to be around like-minded people, but do not want or necessarily need to go into a care facility.
  • Extending minimum standards that already exist to provide for those with a disability to include the elderly.
  • New large-scale land developments in some cities are now required to incorporate a percentage of social housing and this could be adapted to include an allocation for older people.
  • Encouraging local councils to zone areas for senior assisted living and care homes.

Peter Vernon, Executive Director Grosvenor Group, said: “How cities evolve to meet the needs of their ageing populations is a serious challenge and a defining one for generations to come. We see no single solution but instead envisage the need for a range of integrated approaches to suit local requirements.

“While there are many current and pressing city development needs, it’s essential that we don’t lose sight of the major changes that ageing populations will trigger in just a few years. As a result, we urge the wider property industry, central and city governance and other relevant stakeholders to work together to recognise this important issue and prioritise its resolution.”

The report can be found here

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