This blog was written by Professor Karim Hadjri, Head of School, Principal Investigator of ODESSA project and Dr Junjie Huang, postdoctoral Research Associate of ODESSA project in the Sheffield School of Architecture (SSoA)
Global population is ageing rapidly due to low fertility and low mortality rates. This is a significant achievement which should be celebrated. Nations across the globe are now looking at providing adequate and accessible housing, care and other public services. In relation to living environments, there is an increasing number of older people choosing to live independently at home, which suggests that ageing-in-place is a popular choice amongst older people. Housing for older people is not simply a shelter which affects physical health but also an important foundation for mental health, quality of life and well-being generally.
According to the 2017 report of World Population Prospect published by the United Nations (UN), the world population is growing much older throughout the 21st century. Comparing to 2017, the number of persons aged 60 or above is expected to more than double by 2050, and more than triple by 2100, rising from 962 million (2017) to 2.1 billion (2050) and 3.1 billion (2100). For those aged 80 or above, the population is projected to triple by 2050, and seven times by 2100. It is also projected that the ageing population will have profound effect on societies, such as fiscal and political pressures. In the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), older people are now recognised as the central importance and explicitly mentioned in the 12 of the 17 goals, with the focus to promote healthy living and well-being.
On 23th February 2018, more than 100 delegates gathered to the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel & Spa, Sheffield, to attend the End of Award conference of ODESSA project. The conference offered the opportunity to hear about the research findings generated by the ODESSA team, around implementing the concept of ageing-in-place and care delivery models.
What is the ODESSA Project?
In March 2015, the ESRC (UK), ANR (France) and NSFC (China) awarded €1 million funding for the ODESSA (Optimising care delivery models to support ageing-in-place) project. Led by Professor Karim Hadjri, ODESSA project has brought together researchers in the UK, France and China to study how ageing-in-place can be achieved. The research team have investigated how ageing-in-place can be supported, allowing ourselves, our parents and grandparents to age well and with dignity, without having to move out of their own homes and communities. Proposals aimed at kick-starting new ways of adapting homes to avoid older people going into residential care as well as making it easier for them to access public services. The project has explored the relationship between living arrangements, living environment and the design of care delivery. Taking into account, the factors that impact on the different ways in which older people in China, the UK and France define care delivery, the project has produced a common framework for the study of care delivery mechanisms and the options available to older people in relation to cultural, socio-economic and welfare systems.
The research team from University of Sheffield and University of Central Lancashire have looked into the care delivery issues on community level in the UK, China and France. A survey instrument was developed to collect respondents’ personal, accommodation, care and connection network data in six communities of the three countries. The team worked out a unique technique to explore latent associations between various personal and network factors, including the strength of helper and place connectivity (Figure 1).
The findings have provided insights to current health, care and service connection issues of the ageing population in the studied communities. For example, in the UK, we have identified:
- Shopping place, health care service, and community centre (or communal area) are playing vital roles in older people’s daily life.
- Church/temple, leisure facility, pub/restaurant/café, social club/association, libraries are very important to older people in the studied communities.
- The connections to cinemas/theatre, town centre, swimming pool, and park are weaker than expected in these communities.
Based on the data we collected, detailed development suggestions are outlined for the studied communities to enable a better ageing-in-place living environment. For example, Norwich needs to consider improvements of their services in community centres/hall, town centre, social clubs/associations, pharmacy, and hair dressers. Stratford-upon-Avon needs to look more into their local parks, cinemas/theatres, swimming pool, local events, etc.
Tipton may find useful to improve their hospital, pharmacy, pubs/restaurants/cafés, churches/temples, social clubs/associations, swimming pool, local neighbourhood, and hair dressers for the older people in the community.
Age-friendly Living Environment
The team at the Sheffield School of Architecture have identified 16 examples from the UK, France and China that are age-friendly living environments, equipped with assistive technology and designed using the principles of inclusive design, and with care provision when required. These independent living schemes support the development of a design framework for retrofitting options (Figure 2) for mainstream housing where people can age well. The recommendations have been tested by engaging with the views, experiences and needs of the diverse stakeholders, including older people. This helped the researchers to identify the challenges and opportunities of ageing well at home and provided an insight into the special design considerations required to design barrier-free, comfortable environments that are technologically enhanced to encourage better health, safety, independence, and a sense of community.
Based on findings from the project and demographic predictions, the Sheffield research team have also developed 12 different future scenarios for housing with care in China (Figure 3). These scenarios were developed to highlight current challenges in terms of housing, health and social care provision. Solutions were provided for the older people with similar situation to tackle these challenges.
The scenarios provide a platform for an effective framework that will support China in addressing age-friendly environments and better health and care provision for the older population. The 12 scenarios were then evaluated at two public events in China. The majority of the participants accepted and felt optimism of the ageing-in-place scenarios. Based on the results of the scenario feedback, researchers made a number of recommendations for improvements in the future.
- Better social and family care support for older people with mental and cognitive health problems.
- Accessible health care systems and technologies, especially for emergency situations.
- Up-to-date and more specific housing retrofitting options to support ageing-in-place.
- Establishment of a framework to support retrofitting policies, regulations and professional inspections.
The future Ageing-in-place?
We are now working on future possibilities to implement our exciting research findings, and to bring the ageing-in-place concept into reality. We would start from developing design and building standards for age-friendly housing and neighbourhoods in China and implementing a policy and design framework to support ageing-in-place at home and in the community. Of course, our work will not only benefit the ageing society in China, but also provide guidance of how these frameworks and standards can be applied across the world. We are very excited to see an age-friendly society becomes a reality in the near future.