'The Evolution Of The English Household With Older People'

“Architects created an inadequate model which stripped the
house of even the slightest connection with the city.
… we would gain in self esteem (if)… a synthetic
landscape (were) able to provide the
utmost freedom to improvise a
space which is socially well
equipped as part of its

Elia Zenghelis & Eleni Gigantes


“Today practically all citizens are somehow obliged to live
a dispersed life. The events which so far took place
inside the house are now scattered across
the city. (Service industries)…amputate
the house, not only the living and
dining room, but also the
kitchen and bathroom.”

Toyo Ito


“…more attention to the questions of temporality in architecture,..(is needed)..encompassing lifestyles, uses, removal and appropriation.
The permanent parts and the antiquated parts must
be differentiated, constructing architecture on
the basis of this decision to no longer divide
spaces, but what has to remain and
what has to be transformed.”

Yves Lion








7.         CONCLUSION


9.         NOTES


This paper is part of a three stage project, finishing with the construction of examples of well designed housing – which will suggest a way forward and generate more discussion about the future of housing in Britain. This first stage was commissioned by The Helen Hamlyn Foundation; and researched at the Royal College of Art. This work was initiated in response to the fact that in the next 20 years, 50% of European adults will be aged 50 or over, and there will be a variety of cultural and social changes that will have to be catered for. By aiming to promote good housing design with some built examples, which people can see, good design can raise public awareness of the fact that an ageing population brings opportunities rather than only problems to many aspects of our society.

Many housing providers still view public housing needs, especially those of older people, as primarily house based and medical – in isolation of social interactions and preventative health. As a consequence of this, designers  often create clinical housing solutions that institutionalise and increasingly isolate those living alone – locking away their energy, skills and resources which could benefit communities and individuals in the future. If we do not develop more optimistic and proactive housing approaches in response to this, problems of deficit, dependence and decline are likely to force governments and housing providers to make reactive and more limited responses to people’s housing needs in the near future. We can afford now, at the outset of these changes, to be more optimistic, to consider more extensive housing needs of people and to recognise that the environs of the house are as important to this as the house itself. For this reason, this paper looks at the inter-relationships between older people and households over British history and considers how we can build on and extend some of those care arrangements for the future opportunitie.s that are now emerging.

Corporate Households in the Pre-Industrial Age; 1400 – 1800

Fig. 1:

Prior to about 1660, older people rarely lived in institutions or alone.1 If they were not heads of households they tended to live as working lodgers in a collective existence that would seem hard to us today. There was no distinction between domestic and economic functions; the household was a closed corporation that included older relatives as industrial and domestic workers. This life-cycle service created unique, extended family patterns and a generational depth crucial to the welfare of the older person and of benefit to the household, which offered its members security, but demanded working loyalty in return

Fig. 2:

The Elizabethan Poor Laws of 1600 formalised care relationships, establishing the workhouses and confining relief of the retired and elderly to the immediate family, in the hope that this would guarantee an element of preventative care. However, rather than guaranteeing extended care for all, this often resulted in extreme impoverishment and in some cases, avoidable death among old people.

Fig. 3:

There was a lack of independence and no privacy in traditional households that restricted the older personÕs, and indeed everyoneÕs independence; rooms opened straight into each other without corridors, and beds were shared for warmth.2The first radical change to the form of the house and lifestyle of older people was the development of a sense of privacy, withdrawal at will from the common life and interests of the household. Privacy in sleep, eating, religious and social ritual; finally privacy in thought, came about with a general classification and separation of household functions.

Fig. 4:

In the pre-industrial household there were various degrees of care management to which housing was specifically adapted. The privileged were set up with servants in their own households, and widows were less likely to stay with their married children, while families and children lived in multiple, extended and noisy households. In both cases the destiny of all members of a household were controlled by status and the decisions of heads of households.

Fig. 5:

The land-holding peasant family had set arrangements for the maintenance of old men, their wives and widows when they were no longer able to work for their living. Customs such as the ‘widow’s bench’ indicate a provision sanctioned as far back as Mediaeval times. From the 16th Century onwards individuals with small or large possessions of land tended to provide for a remaining member of a generation by specifying a house room to be set aside for them.


In Pre-Industrial times, loyalty, respect and support for older people would have been encouraged by a context of wars, inheritance and lack of independent thought – wholly irrelevant to our lives today. This context once benefited traditional large households making them more necessary and stronger, but their success was often to the detriment of independence. It therefore seems inappropriate that planners, architects and developers often aspire to pre-industrial and other idylls, far removed from modern realities and the new possibilities that could benefit the household and care of independent people today – some new idyllic scenarios are required.

Key Points

The Pre-Industrial Age, 1400 – 1800

– communities of closed households led by a single head of family

– multiple-extended family households included workers as lodgers

– all functions of work, thinking and play kept inside households

– all members of the household offered useful resources and labour

– older people effectively locked-up; no individual spaces or thought

– inheritance, short life spans, family politics – a respect for old age

Neighbourhoods in the Industrial Age; 1800 – 1940

Fig. 8:

From 1800 to 1850, half of England moved into towns, leaving the traditional multi-generational household behind. This separated work and people from the corporate household and brought about the creation of town neighbourhoods and local facilities. Most older people were left behind in the depopulated countryside, while industrialisation obliterated the Ôlife-cycle serviceÕ, upon which older people had relied. Generational depth in the composition of households now became thin and homogenous across industrial societies.3

Fig. 9:

The changes to traditional family ties that resulted from the movement of people to new workplaces led to increasing vulnerability of the elderly. Households which had previously contained various lodgers and multiple families shrank, become smaller and more private. The nuclear households which resulted can be seen as the accumulative effect of changing working practices and increasing independence and individualism. These changes will almost inevitably be replicated in the developing world, as cities grow and multiply.

Fig. 10:

A measure of independence was found in this period which released many older people from rigidly structured households. The percentage of people living in, one- or two-person households, tripled around this time, with many of these being older people. Retirement defined older people in terms of performance, and distinguished industrial society from previous ages. Few children came home to help ageing heads of households, who were left to parish relief whilst their children set up home themselves in the village or in a distant town. The independent residences (or old peopleÕs homes) we see today seem to have started, to a small degree, via the shared work house and common houses provided for by parish Poor Law authorities.

Fig. 11:

Public reaction to over-population and insanitary conditions led to legislation for improved housing. Health and care converged with housing and property development and new perceptions of land use to the benefit of all. These changes were influenced by personal expectations of care raised by the previous age’s household arrangements, and by built examples of good local housing provided by liberal individuals. Modest examples were built locally to initiate discussion and interest tenants, but architects made little contribution to this debate.

Fig. 12:

In general, the quality of local housing for older people continued to follow the standards set in the Industrial Age. The Welfare State legislation of the 1940s profoundly influenced individual expectations and perceived housing needs, particularly in later life. The main thrust of state housing provision continued to focus on the environmental health aspects established in the Industrial Age and the concept of local authority and state provision embodied in the concept of the Welfare State.


In the Industrial Age, in the context of disease, overcrowding and new scientific knowledge it was crucial to link housing design to primarily medical concerns. Now however, individualised lifestyles and modern care services have become increasingly important in the context of cultural change and independence. It therefore seems inappropriate that housing providers and designers are still limited to only the most basic understandings of health and housing needs, as being only medical in nature; rather than connected to the need for social life and environmental in the broader preventative sense of the life of the individual and well-being of the community with its continual influence on the individual as a whole.

Key Points

The Industrial Age, 1885 – 1940

– young smaller families leave extended household and move to towns

– older people left behind and released from extended household

– neighbourhoods of housing, shops and leisure in and around towns

– environmental health acts supplement loss of care as households split

– older gain freedom, but not independence or own lifestyles

Isolation in the Modern Age;1940 – 2017

Fig. 13:

Since World War II, social, economic and communication improvements have combined with a growing generational gap to transform the household, and the traditional structure of European society can no longer be found in the Western nuclear family and European marriage pattern. Today, our social and working lives are far more diverse and dispersed; now more people live alone, outside the family household, and services and work exist further from the house. Since older people have more individualised lifestyles, and care from the family has become less common, older people living on their own have become more reliant on care services.

Fig. 15:

Knowledge of where things are locally, how they work, and long-term attachments to an area or dwelling indirectly nourish older people and their communities.5Adaptation projects have an important secondary function of re-connecting people to their environments, services and other people, thereby cementing supportive personal and community relations by the action of building.

Fig. 16:

In the context of housing design, benefits can often found by looking outside the immediate scope of a brief, or the physical need of particular client groups, and responding to broader social contexts. But present regulations and designs of housing for the older person focus mostly on medical needs in isolation6, disregarding important psychological, social and cultural health influences that are only now being acknowledged.

Fig. 17:

Even in family-based care systems,independence has become the prerequisite for quality social interaction, and care resources cannot match the more diverse demands of modern living; in particular the fact that four out of five older people want independent housing of their choice, for as long as possible. Ironically, independence from the family has led to an increased dependency – on the state, other agencies and on mobility. Home adaptations meet many demands, but in Britain, this is made more difficult by the poor state of a pre-war housing stock.4

Fig. 18:

The Lifetime Homes Principle was established in response to the existing housing conditions for older people and the projected increase in their number and influence. Its precedents can be found in Barrier-Free design and sheltered housing, but is not limited to medical concerns. The Lifetime Home is constructed so that it can be adapted at a later date and its dimensional standards allow for eventualities, including change of physical and social uses, so inhabitants can maintain their lives, access to fittings and effectiveness at home .

Fig. 19:

In 1989, The Helen Hamlyn Foundation and Andrew Rowe MP, launched Lifetime Homes with working parties, seminars and an exhibition of designs that responded to the needs of the older person in ways house builders felt were worthwhile. But, because they add 15% to construction costs, builders are slow to respond; even though they supplement long-term costs of maintenance, adaptation and care services to great effect and even forestall expensive and detrimental institutionalisation.

Fig. 19:

Home adaptations, have been helping people reuse their homes in ways not anticipated by the architect at the outset and reducing hazards, lifestyle limitations and improving access for children, mothers and anyone carrying anything cumbersome or of a delicate constitution. Schemes involving communal workshops and D.I.Y. skills have also helped many people to interact with care services and neighbours, and encouraged people to make more personalised amendments.

Fig. 20:

Lifetime Homes cater for lifestyle changes and improve the chances of people caring for and being involved in their own and neighbouring surroundings. By catering for future home adaptation the Lifetime Home crucially shows how design need not limit our capacity to respond, in our own way, to the changes we all face in the future – particularly as we age. Changes including those that come with the arrival of lodgers, a change in family numbers, people developing hobbies and skills, changes in health, doing more work from home, active retirement, pregnancy, childbirth or death, are examples of what will probably affect all our future housing needs and lifestyles.


In the Modern Age, since the second world war, people became more independent of families and lived outside the household, but we have also therefore become more dependent on care services and social life outside of the family. Initially medicine and environmental health supplemented the loss of household family care arrangements, indirectly, by preventing disease. Now, mobility and individualised lifestyles are needed for the quality interactions which supplement household or family care, and are as much an influence on maintaining health as medicine. It seems inappropriate that housing design still tends to separate dwelling from public spaces which can benefit the health, work, leisure and social life of the dweller in combinations of ways. Collective spaces, which have always offered ways of meeting and creating interdependencies are needed now to balance the increased isolation that increased independence and living alone often bring.

Key Points

The Modern Age, 1940 – 2017

– more and longer distances travelled to work and leisure

– new social arrangements of work and lifestyle priorities

– new effective care services create independent lifestyles

– older people gain independent lifestyles but not freedom

– increased dependence on care services; more isolation

Clustered Activities in the Near Future

Fig. 21:

The functions of dwelling, family, work, leisure and other activities that were once wholly situated within the traditional household have now almost entirely dispersed. We once relied on such households for security and companionship; we now rely more on our own resources and a diversity of relationships that are more often located outside the household than previously.

Fig. 22:

It is reasonable to assume that 50% of the adult population in the UK and the rest of the developed world will be aged over 50 for the foreseeable future, and that the number of people aged 80 or over will continue to rise.7 Older people are more numerous and visible than ever before and, as a consequence, people are starting to reflect on their own age differently.

Fig. 23:

Living alone is increasingly dictating housing needs and forms a crucial element of today's housing developments. Forecasts from the Department of the Environment predict that 27 new towns the size of Milton Keynes will be needed within the next twenty years to accommodate these new, smaller households.

Fig. 24:

Ageing will increasingly take place outside nursing homes and hospitals, making older people more often reliant on adaptable and more personalised housing designs. As a consequence, detailed planning at the outset is needed to cater for more eventualities and particularly specific needs associated with the restricted mobility, strength and dexterity of older people. As mobility factors become more important for social interaction, access to services will depend very much more on the proximity found in densely and well planned towns or housing estates.

Fig. 25:

New forms of social and community work can be envisaged as blurring the distinct care activities we see at present. For example: the role of Ôsocial animatorÕ Ñ someone to facilitate interaction between different generations and groups within the community; to initiate discussions about housing needs, work, and learning new skills; and to identify ways in which resources available within the community can be deployed to the benefit of all concerned.

Fig. 26:

The development of electronic control systems and micro-mechanical devices offers the possibility of manipulating ambient temperature, light, colour, energy consumption, waste management and air conditioning to create environmental and cost-efficient conditions of real benefit to older people. Telecommunications, are becoming more user-friendly, with the potential to increase older people’s access to an enormous, growing range of services and social interactions including: security and medical surveillance; multimedia education and entertainment; video conferencing with doctors and other personal advisers and carers; and a host of as yet undeveloped possibilities.

Fig. 27:

Domestic interfaces, or telematics/domotics, are much talked about, but have yet to deliver their promised anticipation of users requirements. Instead they are having to compete with simple and less expensive care systems which offer the benefits of personal contact as opposed to impersonal technological supervision. A major reason for older people contacting help-line services is simply to have someone to talk to. Technologies that put people in touch are more likely to succeed, and benefit older people than those which isolate and cocoon.


The diagrams shown in each previous section have summarised key stages in the evolution of inter-relationships between the community, household and the individual older person, shown highlighted in black. Looking back over these diagrams we can see that over history an incremental dispersal of household members and many of its caring, working and leisure activities has progressively occurred. It is likely that this trend will continue through into the next century to include activities outside the household as work and industry adapt to new methods of technology and outsourcing. When a majority of institutions and companies use these and become smaller and more able to offer more diverse services delivered to home, we can imagine more work, leisure and health activities being performed in areas nearer to or in our homes, that were once only found some miles distant. Smaller efficient organisations are likely to continue forming and allow for diverse clusterings and combinations of community and household functions to work together – fusing public and private life in a way that suggests a new type of close-knit care and housing environment.

Key Points

The Near Future, 2000-2020

– new retirement and work practices

– more need for mobility for quality interactions

– technical advances diversify services for homes

– less greenfield sites compress use of town space

– large institutions disperse, flexible organisations integrate

– intelligent and networked communities; individuals’ skills

– proportionately older population ‘staying put’

Five Design Challenges for Housing Providers

In our age of increasing changes, ideas about durability, and maintaining stability are useful in the planning of housing developments for the near future. Today, developments tend to be defined by a buildings’ appropriateness to a single brief and single point in time and its construction is defined by its completion. But, a more appropriate definition, for future developments, is found in dictionaries; where the noun development, is defined as – “developing; growth or evolution”; with the verb to develop defined as – bring to active or visible state of maturity; unfold; make fuller; build on or make fuller use of. In a sense, the Lifetime Homes Principle is just such a flexible, ‘developing,’ type of architectural development; it allows for continuous (individuals’ and the houses’) growth rather than simply ‘completion’ and it successfully integrates the provision of care and housing in ways more appropriate to individuals’ changing needs than any single brief could ever acheive for a future of more individualised lifestyles.

We saw how individuals’ lifestyles have tended to be limited by different care-dependencies over history and how it is possible to change this by allowing individuals to stay-put, stay-in-touch and continue to interact with established contacts already effective at home. This social permanence relies on individual flexibility and a developing lifestyle. Arrangements like the Lifetime Homes Principle show how flexible designs of housing indirectly encourage the supportive activities of local social arrangements – by not restricting them. But these activities tend to develop independently around homes and are present in different ways within all households and areas. Our homes and the people we share them with all have a capacity to help the supportive social functions of work and play; but are often suppressed by limited housing designs and approaches to care, restricting the diverse combinations of daily work, health and play routines we all adapt to differently. The equipment and practical expertise existing within our homes is of value to the maintainence of housing and health care of individuals and their ability to stay-in-touch and at home.

It is likely that less distinction is going to be made between the building and the envelope of care/services that surround it, and a new architecture of care, work and leisure can soon emerge that is well suited to the changing needs and skills we see emerging now. The dweller-servicing arrangement, if co-ordinated, could prevent isolation by encouraging effective interactions, and these kinds of arrangements could now be defined by new understandings of tenancy, of premises and (in the form of leasing) of products and services. This will require careful co-ordination of accurately registered skills, needs and services available (in terms of organisations, equipment and people nearby) and the registration of intentions of what or who is needed and planned for in the future – so aspirations might be combined and new combinations of leisure and work might be organised, that question the traditional oppositions between domestic work, leisure and care, and allow a new overlapping of functions to arise.

The following check-list of questions form foundations of the next stage of discussions and will involve all those involved in the design and provision of housing care, including workshops, competition designs, student projects, and an exhibition of design proposals that will set the basis for a more public discussion and fund raising for starting construction in the near future.

1. Design Practices

–         Could the consideration of housing and the home, in the broader context of the delivery of services, offer a realistic new model for housing-care well suited to the emerging highly independent lifestyles, needs and households of the near future?

–         Are there imaginative ways of bringing home-based care and other services to the individual and re-integrating services and individuals with local and like-minded communities?

–          Does dweller-servicing as distinct from simply health care of the individual in isolation offer new models for interdependence, care and community relationships in the future, or is this an ethical nightmare ?

–         Housing projects overlap many other projects. Is there a way in which architecture as an overview service could seek to consult with more local residents, more proffesionals and integrate more changes or are particular specialisations needed?

–         On the one hand, architectural design practices might become more consultative but and on the other hand, could they become more flexibly strategic – seeking to prevent basic problems as distinct from dictating solutions and lifestyle assumptions for all? Instead of schemes being ‘completed’, could architects mediate a process of continual change where housing is planned and built using adaptive architectural devices?

–          Adaptations allow for changing uses, needs and occupations, could the construction process of home adaptation be usefully registered via communications or externally on the outside fabric of buildings and their surrounding landscape so building work and local interests could be more quickly registered and interelated?

–          If organisations’ are to adapt to a diversity of older peopleÕs increasingly diverse needs and respond to a variety of new market sectors what framework is broad and flexible yet has basic, common points of reference for care around which it can operate?

–          The mainstay of the traditional household was that its members were reliant on each other, this offered a fixed common reference for care, work and a degree of stability and assurance in times when little was fixed. Is there some specific reliances that design now facilitates that could be investigated and combined? Could the combination and intereliance of design requirements establish common reference points for today? For example, when we are without mobility we become more reliant on proximity – design for proximity-transport. Without work we become reliant on leisure and self-employment – design for leisure and work. Without strength we are more reliant on security and design – design for frailty and security. Without agility we are more reliant on design that does not hinder – design for agility and freedom.

2. Supplementing Housing

–         To improve social, work and mobility factors, could more and very much smaller facilities be moved nearer to or within housing developments? How near are the facilities people find most enjoyable and ideal; within the house, distant, nearby etc.?

–          Could storage space be used to release space used at home, and so allow for house adaptations and changed lifestyles? Could the movement of equipment out of the house, into a facilities space realistically offer people a resource, in the chance to share equipment and skills if their interest or organisation was casual?

–         Could units be design to cater for special uses and offer people the chance to more easily and regularly access visiting specialists, whose equipment and skills could be used in combination with that which is available or already stored nearby?

–          Adapting parts of urban terraces for a variety of ‘near-domestic’ activities carestops, could offer more generous rooms outside the house and more of the luxuries of space and facilities than any one single dwelling could offer or afford. Could these spaces be used for temporary or long term work, leisure, care or holiday activity for both visiting helpers, social animators and nearby residents?

–          The insertion of small scale health facilities near to peoples’ homes, in rooms fitted with equipment either too expensive or bulky for individuals’ dwellings or budgets, could cater for skilled health or training visitors – offering space and secure storage for specialist equipment. Visiting specialists, including;. caterers, physios, mechanics, hairdressers, dentists, business advisors, tutors etc have equipment that could be stored long term or temporarily. Could their ongoing, events or consultations create a form of micro-business, where learning, dining and catering augment homes and earnings in ways that help community understandings and individuals simultaneously?

–          By adding structures to houses, like those used for winter-gardens and roof gardens, is it possible that work, hobbies and shared self-build workshops could utilise outdoor spaces, stairways and access balconies to cultivate skills and allow people to see what is available and occurring on estates?

–          If set around ground floor party walls, courtyards or roof spaces could vertical corridors of facilities (e.g. combinations of carestops, shops and winter gardens) be extended upwards or across to other buildings?

–          In terraced or detached housing, could activities become more dense and benefically interactive if improved uses of balconies, canopies, bays, insertable service corridors and connecting areas etc were used to encourage an overlap of activities that functioned adjacently to one another?

3. Landscape Architecture

–         It is likely there will be an increased need to use greenfield sites for agriculture and that brownfield sites will be made available for regeneration around towns; making them more urban in quality. Could landscape architecture take on some new urban functions, establishing new types of exterior spaces?

–          Is it possible that outside rooms could be used as craft, play, working or eating areas and offer opportunities for leisure, learning skills and work; sited in public outdoor areas they would more easily benefit from the sun and being seen than if indoors?

–         Could external structures in the landscape or the street offer more outdoor shared facilities, be vadal proof and  express the changing nature of an area’s private and public activities?

–          How might some new approaches for using planting species be useful  as greenfield sites become less common and towns need to build on brownfield sites of dereliction?

–          Could the use of certain planting species and sewage works be used to help detoxify industrial wasteland and return soil nutrients to infertile lands and break down concrete?

–          Instead of simply demolishing neighbourhoods and building anew, for large scale fast-track master plans, as we have tended to do in the past – could streets and elevations express a small microplanned evolution of localities and the changing life of their inhabitants?

4. Micro-Planning

–          An additional phase of planning is needed to help encourage well placed renovation and establish new working and leisure activity? Is it possible to supply more easily accessible and detailed, up-to the minute information; of what is being adapted in an area already and what services are available and needed through individuals locally and elsewhere in a new type of planning?

–         Some councils commission detailed surveys of what a borough possesses and where it is located. Does this type of planning, based on local micro-influences and local facilities (like street lighting, neighourhood crime and gang feuds, health care centres, cafes and bus-stops) and other overlapping facilities require knowledge gathered on a small scale and have to come from local groups and area representatives?

–          Could local information services, particularly about the skills and knowledge of individuals living nearby and where locally available information can be found (about specialists, industry or self help facilities, including: hire shops, cr_ches, materials sponsorship, workshops, parties, shared office spaces etc.) help those seeking work, and interaction particularly after retirement?

–         Is it possible that as leisure and tourism increases, flat or house exchanges could include exchanges of services and care with the dwelling, either abroad or seasonally. Could programmes be developed to monitor changing patterns of uses, costs and tourism and be used to help adjust local plans accordingly, over shorter time scales, especially in areas where seasonal fluctations occur?

–          More regular updates of requirements and projections would allow designers to consider designs, that could in effect, be more resistant to external change by anticipating more new conditions and facilities ahead of time. How might organisations planning to work in an area for more than three years, plan to enhance, maintain, and work with surrounding services, accommodation and landscape as they change?

–          How could micro-mapping be used to locate the best places to site community resources and local services so that locally appropriate, vernacular mixtures of care, leisure, work, and shopping arises?. For example, could the child-minding facilities needed for care workers’ children be staffed by the older people who are being cared for, thereby establishing a reciprocating service appropriate to an integrated town-life?

5. Products

–          Are new appliances required for new combinations of “leisure-work”, particularly for those retired and working from home? Could combinations of products, used in and around housing, be interrelated?

–          Hot-desking, Laundromats, tea rooms, studios, exercise rooms and cr_ches could all involve older peoples’ expertise, does this require new uses of products; their storage and the possibilities of combined uses? For example could products be used for both the cr_che and exercise – for either child or adult or child and adult simultaneously? How might products ultimately be used by the carer or visitor to house and take on new uses for dweller and saving space?

–          How could more products used in housing be maintained and upgraded under combined servicing and lease agreements? Could these products be designed to overlap and be added to as a collection of parts? Could varying degrees of obsolescence and completion make effective changes of uses or alternatively be more usefully disposable?

–          Is it possible to identify different uses of the same product in different contexts, as distinct from simply recycling components (particularly building components), so that they might be designed to allow for easier adaptations and private innovation at home?

–          How might products and packaging be designed to be disposed of in easier ways that could make better use their expiry time, to become part of clearer disposal or dispersal processes?

–          Can shelving, stairs, balconies, handrails, window boxes and water tanks etc. be manufactured in new ways and materials lighter in weight and less messy to work with; so that they could be more easily discarded as well as replaced or added to – benefiting the young and old builder and saving space, time and energy in construction and dealing with dereliction?

–          Can access devices be designed to be more multi-functional and beautiful  spaces in their own right? Could stairways and other semi-private spaces be an opportunity for more activity? Could the use of more effective ready-made structures be used to help create winter gardens or roof terraces in unused and tight spaces, and make meeting on the stairs a more opportune exchange ?

–          Externally, is it possible to structurally accommodate larger scale adaptations and new shared leases with devices that have structural allowances, movement or gaps? Could spaces be designed with new types of junctions and articular constructions so as to be adjustable without interruption to adjacent dwellers and structures? Is it possible that internally, interiors could change over shorter time scales and respond to more frequent changes of use, for the small groupsÕ or individuals who need to personalise and change activities and hobbies.


Designing for Older People and a Future

In an era of change, for housing to remain serviceable over any extended period it will need to be flexible, adaptable and responsive to peoplesÕ changing demands; especially as individuals gain access to more accurate and appropriate knowledge, advocacy and legislation and both communities and individuals evolve under the influence of new, as yet unknown, technologies. Since, the Industrial Revolution the pace of change has accelerated and is likely to continue to do so exponentially. At present the principles of Barrier Free Design and Lifetime Housing, offer a set of guidelines which are likely to become enshrined in European standards. In America, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) sets out minimum standards of access and provision. These developments are likely to improve the quality of life for older and disabled people in the immediate future, but do not offer the flexibility that will be needed from ourselves and our dwellings, cities, transport systems and the services associated with them, in a 21st century likely to be marked by rapid and fundamental changes.

Our best hope for benefiting from and surviving these changes lies in the cohesion of our societies and the continued involvement of people in our cities as enjoyable spaces, not just for young people, but young and old together. It is hoped that this paper and the scenarios it proposes might offer new design agendas for various disciplines – and allow them to use these to begin to establish and test some community idylls for our new contexts today, at the beginning of the 21st century.


A Demographic Overview Of The Ageing Of First World Populations, Roger Coleman, 1993, as part of Applied Ergonomics, Butterworth-Heinemann, London

Family Life and Illicit Love in Earlier Generations, Peter Laslett, Cambridge University Press, 1977

The 2020 Report, Norman Macrae, 1984, Sedgwick Jackson

The Changing Social Structure of England and Wales, 1871-1951 D. Marsh, 1958, Wyman and Sons, London

The World We Have Lost, P. Laslett

Old Age, Simone de Beauvoir, Deutsh and Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London 1972

Once in a Lifetime, Charlie Cooper and Mike Walton,1995, Design Age and Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Independent Living Environments; For Seniors and Persons with Disabilities, Proceedings of Directions ’91, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

An Ageing Population, Penny Liddard, Open University

Housing Social Policy and the State, J. Melling, 1980, Croam Helm Ltd.

Freedom to Build, Dweller Control of the Housing Process, R. Fichter, 1972, MacMillan, N.Y.

Greying Population Stays in the Pink, from New Scientist, 1996

Scientific American, Sept. 1995

Quaderns; D’Arquitectura I Urbanisme, special issue Housing. New Alternatives, O.J.D., Barcelona, 1996


  1. On average of those privileged to have been registered 70% were heads of their own households, 15% were in other households, and only 5% were solitary.  Widows lived with their children’s families.
  2. Rooms grew to the extent they could be heated and were rarely separated
  3. In 1871, the young accounted for 36% of the total population, which then declined to 33%, 24% and 22% in 1901, 1931 and 1951 respectively.  On the other hand, in 1871 and 1901, the elderly formed a small and constant proportion of the population which gradually increased to 7% in 1931 and 11% in 1951.  Laslett, 1972, p193
  4. Pensioners (more than any other group) spend the highest proportion of their income on housing, fuel and food .  Approximately half of those over 65 occupy the worst homes in Britain, with 84% living in temperatures below 21 degrees The housing stock of dwellings in the UK has one of the highest number of good dwellings in terms of space and amenities; yet, the proportion of dwellings in serious disrepair in the UK is the highest out of six European countries researched .  With half the housing stock more than 50 years old, along with France and Ireland we share the highest levels of pre-war housing.
  5. Harrison & Means, 1990
  6. UDP, building regulations, minimum standards space requirements and the Housing Authorities upgrading to European standards; are all being questioned in relation to required changes in the structure of existing houses for the aged.
  7. “A Demographic Overveiw Of The Ageing Of First World Populations”, Roger Coleman, 1993, as part of “Applied Ergonomics”, Butterworth-Heinemann, London
  8. “Close Care” housing schemes have been established as health projects by M. Habell with D.Y. Davies Architects, London


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The use of B&Bs, hospitals, hostels and sheltered housing all cater for their inhabitants needs in ways that make accommodation less about the fabric of architecture, and more about a changing set of servicing relationships in-between. It is likely that the distinction between some premises and services will become increasingly blurred; so that the distinction between the hard product and soft service will continue to decrease in new ways – so the two will merge and the dispersal of the household will be seen to have dispersed other institutions in its path.


In our age of increasing change, establishing and maintaining stability requires a new definition of development, which still needs to be defined by a building’s construction-completion. A definition  for future developments and change itself can be found in dictionaries, definition of “development”; and is the Lifetime Homes Principle and it caters for both architectural and dwellers’ , and not simply their ‘completion’. It successfully integrates in ways appropriate for evolution and this in the past, has tended to become limited by as we have aged. Now it is possible to allow people the their different home uses for an active lifestyle. Such homes help due to their flexibility, which indirectly encourages links between new combinations of property, services, activities and people.

One another, but, important factor that is often suppressed is that change isn’t acknowledge and so becomes a limitation, that should be acknowledges and built in from the outset. A design and care which we can all adapt differently can be often the result of providers creating solutions to not single problems. An oppotunity now exists for designers and active participants in care practice to find a way that personalises an area of work or play, nearby the home. Peoples’play, work,  can be helped in the near future as less distinction will arise between work and leisure. These can soon emerge; diversifing and combining.

If work, care and play activities could be co-ordinated, to prevent isolation and encourage meetings, then how could homes be planned for in the future. In this way, an aspiration,  to change the home into a meeting place suggest that an interlapping of functions needs to arise.

The following questions look into the possibilities of this challenge and are aimed at housing providers and designers who will help form the next stage of this discussion, with workshops, competition design projects, and an exhibition of proposals– thereby creating a move on, for fund raising. More Interrelated Design Practice of housing and the home, could include supplementing Existing Landscape Architecture.

Many older people were exploited as a servent class in a society sharply marked by status.

4Outside Rooms

there exists now an emerging opportunity to change this approach by involving carers and other services more, so as skills and the work involved in care , could by design be better able to connect with the other care/services that surround the home. The challenge for care providers and designers therefore is to anticipate this emerging set of services , in ways of people, particularly older people and their increasinglydiverse needs for care, work and play. Effective interactions  of intentions of what could be a household and its constructions that allow new working and leisure activity are at a microscopic level as well as community. How do things like  lighting, neighourhood crime, health care centres, cafes, bus-stops all combining

The Lifetime Homes Principle indicates how to NOT limit peoples capacity to respond in to their lifestyles as they grow older. Psychologists say that it is more difficult for people to accept changes later in life. But the post-war changes to cultures, at the start of the modern age of new technical and social structures, means that a life of change has been inevitable for people born around the 1940s and 50s. The sheer numbers of this group, including baby boomers, has forced cultural and community change, and new arrangements have been needed for a Modern society now made up predominantly by this group. The changes the approaching community of older people effected after war-time for children in the 50s, for youth culture, as youths in the 60s and for work and communications as working adults in the 90s, are begining to be followed by challenges to preconceptions of ageing – as they continue to reappraise Western ways and start to ‘come home’ with age at the end of the twentieth century. It is unlikely that there is another group whose cumulative influence on all aspects of Western life will be so dramatically felt , especially as the changes they initiated 60s begin to work together and will probably last well into the future.

Catering for these older people, is influenced now by a new diversity of older peopleÕs individualised lifestyles and many different cultural values. The challenge of housing older people can only be met by more flexible responses to providing for housing and care.

But, in the near futureolder peoples’ needs are likely to diversify and these factors are likely to make housing design relate more closely to housings’ various programmes of activities and their combinations of activities, so housing providers will probably require more flexibility in the way a housing development’s programme of activities can be combined and recombined

The Lifetime Homes Principle, has shown how it is possible for people to benefit from being offered the chance to “stay-put” and to utilise their well known relationships and homes in flexible and changing ways as they grow and change. This Principle can be usefully extended for the near future contexts of social, demographic, technological and cultural change (as discussed in the previous section) as it suggests flexible ways that people might also “stay-in-touch”, to benefit from more of the social activities that surround homes.

The previous aims/ questions cited were intended to initiate seminars aimed at the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, town planning, product design and design practice generally, and are based on the following objectives:

1. To identify ways that diversity of already existing services within an area today  can be combined to add value to the supportive social activities that surround the home.

2. The ways that a new home can emerge, using new products and services discussed in the previous section.

3. To encouraging architects and designers to consider the sort of enaging and socially supportive activities, like work and play, that exist around peoples’ homes – not simply within them – and to co-ordinate the required skills, equipment and people nearby- so that activities can effectively be overlapped in new ways to benefit older people and reconcile at a local level.

In the second world war, people who were now more independent of families- became more dependent on people outside of the family. Initially as much as health wise the collective society offered ways of balancing the increased isolation that independence created.

14th century woodcut illustration from Little Red Riding Hood

The lasting legacy of older people’s precarious social position and influence can be seen in the development of the wise old lady and the wicked witch in children’s fairy tales. Storytelling was commonplace and a way ideas were passed on from generation to generation, and often from grandparents to grandchildren. Up until the 18th century grandchildren had very close links with their grandparents, with whom they would more often stay as they grew older than with their parents. Such stories would have influenced children’s perceptions, and helped to shape the views and expectations of generations to come….