As Coronavirus was beginning to take hold in the UK in March and April of this year, news reports from Italy showed residents on their balconies communicating in amusing and creative ways with their nearby neighbours. It was like the Romeo & Juliet balcony scene on speed as neighbours reached out to each other in a shared quest for companionship. Indeed, another Housing LIN guest blog last week on balconies in extra care housing showed the HAPPI dividend of balconies and community space when designing schemes. So, what bearing will this have on the new communities we are currently designing for Future Street’s new mid-market Later Living Villages?
Like other historic plagues it can be anticipated that Covid19 will drive changes of various kinds. For instance, this may turn out to be the impetus which modular construction needs to get it over the tipping point, where it has been hovering uncertainly in recent years. This form of construction will increasingly demonstrate its ability to comply with social distancing requirements and with health and safety issues effectively managed within a well-lit and well-regulated factory environment.
It is unlikely that Covid-19 will result in a reconsideration of the HAPPI principles which we adopt in our approach to good design for the elderly. The provision of external spaces, both private and communal, opening onto areas of planting, trees and the natural environment are essential. In such responsibly managed living environments it is likely that health, fitness and wellness will improve, leading to increased longevity. The denser the settlement the more energy efficient it is and the easier access becomes to social and health services. But if we try to spread ourselves out more what effect will this have on our valuable green belt and our dependency on the car?
A recent report commissioned by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust shows that older people benefit from improved physical and mental health in Later Living Villages. The study demonstrated that such communities can delay or reverse the onset of frailty. Later Living Villages, unlike care homes, have experienced a fairly low rate of infection – largely because of less hands-on care and the compartmentalisation of the village into individual homes. This pandemic will act as the catalyst that ignites the need for innovation to enable better care, communications, and management such as video platforms to keep residents connected and interactive robots.
In the future, the ability of residents to interact with others in a safe environment will be of paramount importance. The provision of balconies, either within a courtyard setting or facing the street, provides an opportunity most of the year round for safe social interaction. There will also be an option to sit in the rooftop winter garden in an attractive landscape setting.
Our immune system is bolstered by healthy eating and micro-gardening. The intensive cultivation of a wide range of vegetables and herbs in small spaces such as balconies, courtyards, and surrounding landscaping, is highly productive. Extending this wellness philosophy further to the boundaries of the plot and we could see small allotments, summer fruit trees and bushes, wildlife gardens, natural wildflower areas; initiatives that create a purpose for all outdoor areas to promote and enhance wellness for village residents.
If you would like to talk through any of the issues raised in this guest blog and/or find out how the Housing LIN can assist your organisation, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org