I have always been into “pensioner chic”, I love my brown slacks, sensible shoes and, my woolly cardi. If I wasn’t so modern as to buy all my food shopping online (a pre silversurfer?) I would leave Tesco pulling one of those bags on wheels with my leeks and cabbage sticking out the top. I’m looking forward to being a granddad, and with kids soon to move out of their teenage years it may not be that far off.
Spiritually therefore I’m certainly a baby boomer and as a designer can doubly see the challenges that this generation will be facing in the next 10 to 20 years as homes, poorly suited to adaptation, become prisons.
It’s an unavoidable truth, not just for our parents but for my generation as well, that we are statistically far more likely than our grandparents to live past 70, but an unwelcome truth that statistically we are very likely to have some kind of disability that will affect our mobility. This could mean anything from trouble climbing stairs through to a loss of sight which can make a poorly designed house not just ugly but dangerous.
The frustrating thing from a design point of view is that, whether we’re talking globally about carbon footprints, or locally about accessibility, there is no need to make a big trade off: quality doesn’t have to give way to quantity and great design doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive it just takes thought and commitment from a team to do whats right. It might mean working past 5.30 but its worth it!
This is a challenge I’ve long been engaged on, particularly through my work for Building for Life (BFL) which works to improve the design quality of new homes, and prove that it doesn’t have to be an either/or question, quantity and effective adaptable design really can go hand in hand. We just need to make this the norm rather than the exception. As more and more organisations from across the private and public sectors recognise this and come together, momentum of BFL and other campaigns such as More and Better Homes (www.moreandbetter.org.uk) is growing. But there is still a long way to go.
The government is correct in saying we need more high density, affordable housing, close to public transport, in areas where there is the greatest need. Developers need to make a profit over the long term. And baby-boomers, along with all house buyers want stylish, high quality dwellings close to friends, family, work and recreational facilities – all at a price they can afford. This is where Building for Life can make a difference. After all, with our rapidly ageing population, sixty is becoming the new forty. ‘Pensioner chic’ no longer conjures up images of Victor Meldrew but a stylish, young(ish) designer.