Senior-friendly apartments in the context of professional activation of the elderly

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Agnieszka Ptak-WojciechowskaMagda MatuszewskaAgata Gawlak

Abstract: Both in Poland and globally we can observe significant demographic changes triggered by the phenomenon called ‘ageing societies’. According to the data of the Central Statistical Office (GUS), in 2020 there were 9.8 million people aged 60+ in Poland and this number is forecast to increase to 13.7 million in 2050.  With the longer life span, we can observe that the period of potential professional activity gets extended. We might assume that people will be working longer and retiring later than in the past. In view of economy, the seniors could partially meet the labour force demand which arises due to disproportionate structure of population in different age groups. With the demand for employees in the working age exceeding the supply, seniors are becoming an attractive alternative. Alongside those trends, the image of a senior in social awareness has changed. Professional potential of the seniors due to their abilities and experience has become widely acknowledged. Professional activation with no age barriers poses a chance for the seniors to longer maintain social bonds, which in turn translates into healthier ageing process. This is further reflected in the increase of the quality of life (in the broad meaning of the term) of ageing societies. With the currently changing working methods, we can find more and more ‘distant work’ job offers that are increasing relying on new technologies. This allows the interested parties to render professional services in their places of residence. At the same time, this trend effectively counteracts the adverse phenomenon of cyber exclusion of people in 65+ age group and extends their options of professional activation. The ageing process is inextricably linked with a decline in the efficiency of senses. It is important for the architecture, and the residential space in particular, to adapt to the changed abilities of its inhabitants in order to mitigate the impact of their physical and cognitive deficiencies. It is vital in the process of supporting good health condition and well-being. Because most of the elderly prefer remaining in their previous places of residence (ageing in place), the residential space should be designed in view of a universal and flexible layout that might be rearranged to adequately respond to any potential deficiencies. As per principle, interior design should be adaptable to reduced motor skills of the residents. The interior of an apartment should be envisaged as a place that can be adapted - if needed - to suit those requiring long term healthcare or rehabilitation. A workplace zone or a gym zone facilitating physical exercises might be perceived as a suitable extension of space and functions of an apartment. Moreover, technology can be viewed as a solution effectively supporting safe and unassisted living in one’s own apartment. Technology stands a good chance to support the physical and psychosocial well-being of residents. The article aims to present recommendations for designing senior-friendly apartments to facilitate their fitness and professional activation, thus, maintaining their good health condition, the feeling of comfort, safety and independence. Carefully designed space, sensitive to physical limitations and abilities as well as personal aspirations, will predetermine the quality of life of an individual and will exert impact on the society as a whole. An apartment should be responsive to needs of inhabitants that change as they age; it shall, furthermore, be age friendly and free of any spatial barriers, as well as activating, supporting and at the same time preventing any stigmatisation and social exclusion.

Keywords: universal design, ageing, professional activity, inclusive design, residential space, architecture

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003337

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