Research to bolster senior living standards

Research by universities in QLD and NSW is expected to influence improvements to infill and strata housing options.

Two researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast collaborated with a local urban design professional in an award winning project to improve housing options for seniors in south east Queensland.

Dr Claudia Baldwin, USC’s Senior Lecturer in Regional and Urban Planning, along with PhD student Caroline Osborne, teamed up with Phil Smith of design firm Deicke Richards to conduct research into the accommodation preferences of seniors across Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

The project, <i>Participatory design for age-friendly communities</i> relied on methods such as ‘photovoice’, where participating seniors photographed what they most valued in built environments and neighbourhoods, then discussed the results in workshops.

The project recently won the 2013 Australasian Core Values Award for Participatory Research from the International Association of Public Participation (Australasian Division); while last year it also bagged a Planning Institute of Australia (QLD Division) award.

“We would now like to compare this study’s results with those of seniors in other climates and socio-economic situations so planning and policy can be tailored to their needs,” said Dr Baldwin.

“We have La Trobe University as a partner to test the methods in Bendigo, and the University of Moratuwa as a partner to test the methods in Sri Lanka.”

The project was funded by USC and industry partners including Sunshine Coast Council, the Queensland State Government’s former Urban Land Development Authority, Deicke Richards and Churches of Christ in Queensland; while the Queensland University of Technology also provided expertise.

Ms Osborne’s achievements in urban planning research have also recently earned her a ticket to attend the Knowledge Cities World Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Many urban planners and developers use data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to inform their decision-making on which facilities and services are needed in a region,” said Ms Osborne. “However, research suggests that development must take the specific needs of the community into account in order for the development to be relevant and welcomed by the community.”

The University of New South Wales has recognised a need to create a safer living space for senior citizens, as new work commissioned by Leichhardt Council focuses on older residents who face challenges when attempting to make alterations to improve home access in strata-run buildings.

The report, Home Modifications in Strata Properties written by Dr Hazel Easthope, follows interviews with Leichhardt residents to identify opportunities for improvements in education, legislation and Council practices. The report also calls for a greater emphasis on accessibility in all new strata buildings.

"Improving the processes for getting home modifications undertaken in strata properties in effect means reducing the time that people are either living in a home that is not safe for them, or the time they have to live away from home," says Dr Easthope.

Dr Easthope is from UNSW’s City Futures Research Centre in the Faculty of Built Environment.