By 2030, one-quarter of all Canadians will be over 65 years of age, which will have profound impacts on Canadian cities, urban life, housing and health services. The City Program of Simon Fraser University hosted a lecture on Friday March 24 on Aging, Design and the City.This well attended lecture was also available on-line and attracted an international contingent of people who joined via the internet.

Director of the City Program Andy Yan brought together a host of speakers from various backgrounds and institutions to commence the conversation of what happens to Metro Vancouverites as they age-do we stay in our houses, or do we go? And where do seniors go to, and what is the housing seniors are looking for?

Elizabeth Tang from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) noted that in focus groups across Canada, people aged 55 to 75 have a lack of concern for planning future housing. Even seniors older than 75 years of age are not thinking of changing from their current dwelling. Factors influencing their choice to age in place included their personal health status, the cost (especially in Vancouver) and the quality of life. Co-housing, where seniors have their own accommodation but share common areas and kitchen facilities appear popular, with Burnaby’s Nikkei Place, Maple Ridge’s Ridge Meadows Seniors Society and Vancouver’s PALS (Performing Arts Lodge Society) being mentioned. PALS also has a children’s daycare on site allowing seniors to have interaction with children and their parents.

Vancouver architect and developer Michael Geller noted that everyone has a different idea of the best place to age, be it in France, a fine hotel, or even on cruise ship. He identified five future trends: People aging in place with supportive governmental programs, more senior friendly duplexes and townhouses; more purpose-built rental and ownership buildings, as well as co-operative and co-housing options; enhanced buildings offering the “continuum of care” with different types of housing and levels of care; and more “alternative tenure” buildings with a mix of ownership and lease housing options.

Architect Eitaro Hirota described the work NSDA architects are undertaking in care facilities, and the importance of sun orientation and the need for communal spaces that can be private, semi-private and public. Simon Fraser University researcher Dr. Habib Chaudhury discussed the parameters needed for age and dementia friendly communities, as well as two assessment tools developed for wayfinding and walkability.

This session provided an  introductory discussion on the trends and impacts of aging on the city and on services. There will not be enough age appropriate housing to go around. Just as there is a pinch in the market for young people looking for entry-level housing, there will be a dearth of housing for seniors. The Nikkei Place  in Richmond houses  40 seniors with an average age of 89 years. The waiting list to get into the Nikkei Place  is already eight years long. We need to adapt our policies, programs, cities and housing to reflect the growing numbers of seniors that will rely on these services  in their waning years.