Retirement living has moved on in the last ten years, but largely unnoticed to the wider world. Currently we are on the cusp of a seismic shift but there is a lot holding this back. Archaic planning laws, short-sighted planning authorities, lack of clear government policy making and direction, legal difficulties on event fees and other issues and absence of funding to name a few. But also the high expectations of retiring baby boomers who would like to down-size but not downgrade. And no-one really wants to go to a “home “ unless they have to.
However, some of the developments we have seen in recent years have fundamentally started to change the look and feel of what that concept still conjures up for most of us : are we now at a place where architecture could prove a game-changer?
Some of the recent Australian schemes in particular are quite remarkable and have the potential to change the way we look at retirement living.
Marked by smart ideas, cutting edge technology and fabulous, innovative design these are schemes that make you want to move in in your early thirties and not waste the next 40 years waiting. Two of the schemes illustrated have come from Marchese partners: they design senior housing for some of Australia’s best known and most respected developers, and you can see why.
The scheme at Vaucluse is based on the idea of a berthed cruise ship: sinuous, flowing lines, elegant vistas, curved glass surround the full height atrium and a central pool are like nothing you’ve ever seen. At Waterbrook Greenwich the tiered levels step back from the outdoor restaurant and bring to mind an Italian hill village but flooded with light: the grand piano just visible behind the great glass wall of the internal common space. These places bring out your inner architect. Not only that, but they are places where the grandchildren will want to come.
Is this what we need to finally change the English vision of senior housing as a distress purchase, conjuring views of corridors and dust, to an aspirational home where retirement is actively welcomed?
We are also seeing some great home-grown developments: some of the Anchor and Richmond Homes schemes for example are remarkable: a world away from what we are used to they offer a more muted, English, traditional take on the Retirement Village. And behind those attractive facades is hidden clever, intelligent design that is clearly the product of much thought and much experience and makes them tremendous places to live.
This is great architecture: form enhancing function: can it change the way we live?