Leaving the village was the provocative title of a recent workshop which considered the role of a traditional retirement village in contemporary society. Edmiston Jones GBB once again joined forces with the IRT Foundation to explore what it means to create an age friendly community at a time when a growing senior population is living longer and healthier lives.
The workshop was run as a debate examining the relevance of Retirement Villages and the perception that segregated enclaves can lead to dislocation with the wider community. Representatives from Councils, Government departments, Retirement Housing providers, the University, peak bodies as well as the business/developer community contributed to the debate. Comments from the tables arguing for either segregation or integration have been captured in a document that can be found with the following link.
Wollongong City Council General Manager, David Farmer, very capably moderated the light-hearted, but lively, debate. While voting by acclamation made the 'segregation' team the clear winner this had more to do with the flamboyance of the presentation led by IRT Foundation Manager, Toby Dawson. The outcome was far more nuanced and the infographic leading this blog attempts to capture the overall sentiment.
There is always going to be a case for villages that provide a safe and engaging environment for seniors. However, this model does need to evolve to have greater integration with the full spectrum of the community. It will never be a case of 'one size fits all'. Ideally, our communities in the near future will have our elders integrated with society, some ageing in places of their choice and others in 'villages' that are totally connected with their neighbourhoods.
I am currently in Europe having visited retirement villages in Spain that are the heart of the local community. I have also witnessed establishments in Denmark where childcare centres sit side-by-side with old people's homes benefiting from the interrelationship. More about these examples in a future blog!