The Development of ‘Age Appropriate’ Living Environments: Analysis of Two Case Studies from a Social Work Perspective
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As the growing number of older people, particularly in urban areas, and changing lifestyles are increasing the importance of continuing to live in the community (ageing in place), studies show that age-related planning of living environments is often shaped by stereotypes, and that the needs of present and future older people are not sufficiently taken into account. In this context, two case studies based on Henri Lefebvre’s theory presented in his book The Production of Space investigate how ‘age-appropriate’ living environments are conceived, practiced and lived, and to what extent age-related stereotypes affect these processes. The two cases examined are an intergenerational project to promote physical activity and the development of a new city square. For both cases, interviews and walkthroughs were conducted with experts from various planning disciplines, as well as with current and future older people. The findings show that in planning practice the notions of old age and older people often remain diffuse and, at the same time, older people are often seen as a homogeneous and fragile group. The results indicate that the importance given to neighbourhood in old age can vary greatly. For social work, this implies that older people should be even more involved in the design of their living environments, through participatory processes, in order to better meet the heterogeneity of their needs.