Our town centres need – now more than ever before – to be the epicentre of our daily lives.
It is important to create better, more accessible healthcare and housing options within town centres for our older generation by encouraging developers more used to dealing with retail or commercial uses to consider a new type of urban housing for older people.
These developments could contain aspirational and supportive residential apartments for older people; but rather than separate them above a base of potentially non-related retail units, the idea is to properly connect the shared amenity directly to the public realm.
These retirement ‘villages’ can boast five-star restaurants, cafés, bistros and wine bars. Larger developments have wellness spas with additional health, beauty and therapy services, while complementary spaces such as libraries, pharmacies and health clinics can be integrated with joined-up thinking from the local health and planning departments.
Giving our older generation the chance to occupy high street or central urban locations brings with it the chance to encourage businesses to appeal to this age group, which generally spends more time locally and has more disposable income than younger people. Specialist independent shops can tailor their products and services to suit and could be encouraged to rent space with flexible arrangements to support a newly forming business.
Older people are often revered for being the glue that holds a community together. Through using their plentiful time and a lifetime of wisdom, they initiate charitable events, create committees, volunteer and are some of the best child-carers and neighbourhood-watch members.
Masterplanners, planners and local councillors have a huge role to play in turning the tide of fear about housing our most vulnerable but also some of the most inspirational and enthusiastic members of our communities in prime town centre locations.
Struggling town centres require an injection of people who will shop, eat out and attend classes. Locating ‘housing with care’ for older people as part of a regeneration plan for a town centre is an exciting, forward-thinking proposition. After all, even at an old age, the best years of our lives may still be yet to come.
Anne-Marie Nicholson is principal at Life3A