By Natalie Rayment
You’ve lived in this suburb for most of your adult life. Your kids grew up here and your friends are close by. But, the house has become unmanageable. It’s too much for just two people and the large garden is becoming a burden. With your upcoming retirement at the end of the year, thoughts turn to downsizing: It’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘where’?
For some people, they don’t want to leave the area of the city that they are most familiar with. They want to live where their connections are, interact with different generations and have good access to services. The problem is that the middle suburbs tend not to offer housing choices for seniors who want to stay in their suburb. Not only is there a lack of housing choice for seniors in Brisbane, the supply of suitable dwellings may not be enough to match demand.
Brisbane City Council (BCC) are addressing this problem with innovative policy. They are proposing to change the planning scheme to encourage innovative solutions. One such solution is the co-location of retirement facilities and aged care facilities on privately owned sport and recreation zoned land. The development needs to reuse, keep or incorporate recreation facilities on the site for community use. YIMBY Qld applauds BCC for this ‘out of the box’ thinking. It has the potential to result in a win-win for both the community and the development industry.
It is a win for community clubs because many are struggling financially (see infographic below). These clubs may not have a future without a disruption to the status quo. Yet they are important to the physical, mental and social wellbeing of people who rely on them. Take bowls clubs for example. Lawn bowlers report “higher physical and mental health status compared to the general population”*. In a recent survey of lawn bowlers, 91% of them choose to bowl for the sense of camaraderie and belonging from being part of a team sport*.
Some would argue that due to declining membership, bowls clubs are not likely to survive even with the co-location of a retirement living or aged care development on the site. Yet, the average growth rate for social bowling is 35% per annum in Australia (see infographic). A co-location development could provide the funds that clubs need to take advantage of the social bowling trend and to stay alive in the long term.
Another innovation in seniors housing that could work in Brisbane is inter-generational living. In Amsterdam, there is a Humanitas aged care home where students live rent free. In return, they agree to spend 30 hours a month socialising with their elderly housemates. Once again, it is a win-win for both parties. Affordable housing for the students and reduced social isolation for the elderly residents.
With 1 in 5 people projected to be aged over 65 in Australia by 2044**, innovations such as inter-generational living and co-location developments will be sorely needed. These ideas need our support so that the question of where to live as we age will no longer be as daunting.
*Centre for Sport and Social Impact, La Trobe University (2013) Building an evidence base to increase participation in Lawn Bowls, available online from http://www.bowlsaustralia.com.au/Portals/9/Media/Final-Report.pdf
**McCrindle Research (2014) Demand Vs Supply: The Aged Care Puzzle, available online from: http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/demand-vs-supply-australias-aged-care-puzzle