Architecture for the Aging

Preparing for your golden years means more than just building up your
nest egg. Aging happens to all of us, and we must think of ways to make
our homes safer as we reach them.
Aging is learning to live with independence. It is a lengthy process that
cannot be measured in years. After much study, it is increasingly
understood that aging is closely related to genetics, lifestyle, location,
and socioeconomic grouping. Therefore, this diverse process varies
according to each individual, their different interests as well as abilities
and preferences in their way of life.
The concern with the aging of the population has been put on the top of
the agenda in different disciplines, including architecture. According to
projections, almost a third of the population (32.5%) will be aged sixty-
five or over by 2050. With this knowledge, we must understand
architecture as a valuable tool to accommodate this growing community.
Many studies and interventions have emerged through different
approaches. Universal design strategies are created allowing
accessibility and comfort for daily activities. Closer relationships with
natural elements such as wind, sunlight, and vegetation are examined. In
addition to these factors, subjective aspects are also considered, such as
those related to integration, protection, and independence, always
seeking to strengthen social connections. The role of architecture in
welcoming this age group can be defined through spaces that increase
the possibilities of active aging with quality of life, independence, and
sociability. The object is to integrate these people among themselves
with society, far from segregation and stigmatization. Considering this

context, it is possible to see two lines of action within architecture: the
adaption of existing buildings and the design of new projects with
specific qualities.
Changes in existing buildings are being directly motivated by the aging
of its residents. Architects are being asked to update the building’s
technical performance as well as find an architectural solution for
different resident profiles. After many years of initial construction, some
buildings no longer meet the necessary standards. Luckily with some
changes, the building can be updated to accommodate the aging
residents. An example of this was found in the Netherlands. In a re-
design process different strategies were drawn up to rethink the spatial
organization of the building as well as redistributing and sectioning the
building according to social groups. A large part of the development was
reserved for elderly residents. For example, the ground floor and
garages became health care facilities and other garden-facing
apartments and a community center were added. More stairs and
elevators were installed to improve the accessibility of the upper
apartments and to shorten the length of the access corridors.
Many senior citizens want to stay in their homes, neighborhoods, and
family environment despite their advanced age. Architects research and find
ways to adapt and accommodate the elderly population. The idea of
offering healthy aging living to its inhabitants reduces economic and
social costs that entail the creation of homes adapted to their needs. For
the architect, the home for the elderly must be compartmentalized, with
lots of light and space to store objects that are part of their history and be
accessible through the senses. It is important to consider the elderly not
only have locomotor difficulties, but also sensorial difficulties, and

architecture can stimulate them through color, light, and texture, helping
them to gain more autonomy.
There is a term known as Aging in Place which allows the housing to
incorporate technologies that facilitate everyday life, without
improvisation or adaptions and without looking like a clinic. New
developments are being built to accommodate the 60+ users. They
include serviced apartments, community housing, and co-housing. In
addition to spaces that encourage socialization among neighbors and the
community in general, there are also service companies that offer
emergency and intensive care. A new format of living for the aged
includes apartments exclusively for the elderly with spaces for medical
clinics and a basement with shops and services targeted to this audience.
Flex living is an idea presented by architect Matthias Hollwich,
professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in his book New Aging:
Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever. He presented this idea, with
apartments that have two entrance doors with two bedrooms connected
by flexible space. With this typology, Hollwich seeks to offer a variety
of arrangements like two friends living together or a resident and a
Understanding architecture from the perspective of the “new seniors”
has been a challenge. Many studies point out that aging in a healthy way
is related to the idea of allowing people to age in conditions like those
they have experienced throughout their lives. This is the path that
architecture should follow, whether adapting existing buildings or
building new ones.

Scarano Architect, PLLC embraces those ideas that promote healthy
living for our senior population. We have been and will continue to be
involved in senior building projects. Please visit our website for more

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