PrintExperts’ take on applying elder-friendly technologies and features to property.

Words by Mira Soyza

Despite the growing need for aged care, retirement villages and aged-friendly community, the action taken to meet these demands has been moving at a snail pace. We asked several design experts for their opinion.

Chris YapAr. Chris Yap, President, Malaysian Institute of Interior Designers (MIID)

APR: In your opinion, how important is it for developers in Asia to cater some of the features of their developments to the elderly?

It is important for developers to build homes with designs and technology to assist the elderly as it is an Asian culture that has to be encouraged and nurtured further as society progresses. This will ensure that the young will always hold family values close to them.

Japan is a well-developed country steeped with traditions and family values as well as respect for the elderly. Coupled with advance technological knowhow and facilities, Japan is easily in the lead in aged care provision in Asia. Plus, it will enhance the marketability of a property development in positive ways.

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APR: What are the actions taken so far by developers to fill the supply and demand gap in Asian countries?

Currently, the demand in Asian countries is still not that high in aged care living. Some developers have all along considered including secondary room on accessible floors for the aged occupants, but no one had gone into the details of it. There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to accommodating the elderly as their needs vary between individuals and can change in stages.

APR: What are the factors that need to be considered when it comes to designing a home for the elderly?

The current health condition of the aged user and the anticipated stages of their future requirements as they age. As with most designs, anticipation of future use and practicality coupled with aesthetics should be the main factors to be considered.

With the advancement and improvement of facilities, the strain of physical labour decreases and the aged will be able to be more self-reliant. The feeling of being independent has a positive psychological effect on the elderly.

Idzam OthmanIdzam Othman, Senior Interior Designer, Majidah Design Sdn Bhd

APR: In your opinion, how important is it to start building homes with designs and technology that cater to the elderly?

We should make this a priority in order to ensure a better quality of living and lifestyle in the future. The world’s population is aging fast and it’s time for us to realize that addressing the need of the elderly is as important as a new born baby’s—attention should be given equally. The governing body should reach out to the society and create awareness of the urgency of this matter.

APR: What are the challenges faced by developers and designers in providing more homes for the aged?

This issue is still new to many Asian countries. Although the issue is urgent, the demand for such design and technology is still small. Most items and expertise are imported from more advanced countries like Japan instead of ‘home-grown’. Due to this, the cost of providing such facilities is too high and gives the impression that only the well-heeled will be able to access such luxury. Perhaps in the future, more investment should be made to produce these items locally and cultivate local expertise.

houseelderly2APR: Will the increasing demand of aged care living and design affect property value in any way at all?

Anything which offers added facilities will somehow affect the value of the property. Therefore, homes that are built with designs and technology for the elderly would definitely add extra value to the property. What we need to have is a governing body that controls them.

APR: What are the factors that need to be considered when it comes to designing a home for the elderly?

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to designing a home for the aged. It varies from one individual to another—it is personal. The space must be functional for them instead of their having to adapt to the space given to them.

Leong Ta WahLeong Ta Wah, Director of Design Business Sdn Bhd

APR: How many Asian countries are currently in the lead when it comes to the design and technology of homes for the aged?

There are currently three countries in the lead: Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. I believe Thailand has now started developing with the aged in mind.

APR: Is it important for developer to start building homes with designs and technology that cater to the elderly?

I would like to emphasize on this ideology: “A design for the aged is a design for all”. I think developers should put in more effort in taking into consideration the needs of the elderly and incorporate them into their development. It will not incur more cost in construction; much of it has to do with detailed planning from day one. The incorporation of even the most basic details such as the reduction steps, having ramps in place and the placing of handrails at an appropriate height will do wonders in aiding them to get by. Other additional features include windows for good natural lighting, better ventilation, community gathering spaces and suitable amenities.

APR: What kind of challenges do designers face in providing home features for the aged?

Presently, there are no standard guidelines and requirements when it comes to designs for the aged. It would be very helpful if a set guidelines is available to designers, architects and design colleges for design reference—it will change the playing field and improve it by leaps and bounds.

APR: What should be the main focus when it comes to designing a home for the elderly?

Safety. Consider all safety aspects to avoid possible falls or any type of injuries. They should also be provided with easy access to all amenities so that they may enjoy their daily activities such as going to the park, or gathering in a community hall to engage in other forms of activities.


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