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Why the Elderly should be considered when designing Buildings

Our population is ageing rapidly, with the recent average life expectancy of Nigerians put at 54.5 years for both males and females. Therefore providing good elderly care becomes increasingly important. Many elderly Nigerians are in bad health and most live in dilapidated homes, but wouldn’t it be a worthy idea if we make efforts at creating a suitable home for the elderly?

Despite worldwide increase by five years in life expectancy with Africa seeing the biggest improvement, Nigeria is among the seven countries with the lowest scores with average of 54.5 years for both men and women. The World Health Statistics 2016 published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and first reported in DailMailUk revealed that life expectancy worldwide has increased by about five years in the last 15 years.

Simply put, the number of elderly Nigerians is on the decline. Now that is an issue for another day. As it is in developed countries, it is paramount that attention should go to building designs and architecture in relation to the population of the elderly in Nigeria. There is an increasing need for buildings to be designed especially in a way that will ensure greater safety and comfort for the elderly and physically disabled. Buildings with no steps at the entrance and handrails on the stairs and in the bathtub, is becoming more and more common. Hence, the building of houses for a comfortable life in old age should begin to attract widespread attention.

Respecting Independence, Preventing Accidents 
Some years ago, there was a report of a man in his seventies living in Tokyo, Japan. He rebuilt his home so that he and his wife could live together with his son and daughter-in-law. First of all, he designed the hallways with a width of more than one meter so that in the future they would allow free movement in a wheelchair. Then he made sure that the stairs had a gentle incline and that each step had double the usual width. He also installed handrails on the stairs, in the hallways, and in the bathroom and toilet.

Furthermore, he planned the layout of the house so that the elderly and younger couples could live separately on the first and second floors, respectively, though with a common living room on the first floor where they could all get together. As a result of the house’s design, the man reported, there was an increase in inter-generational interaction as the two couples helped one another with the household chores and enjoyed chatting.

One of the most important factors in the design of comfortable housing for the elderly and physically disabled is the proper consideration of safety. When building new homes or renovating existing ones, Nigerian families like their western counterparts should pay consideration to this aspect and take the opportunity to incorporate such conveniences as handrails and slip-prevention mats in the bathtub and on the stairs.

In the case of two- or three-generation households, these measures to prevent accidents are essential. But there is also an emphasis on layout designed to maintain the feeling of independence and activity of elderly people. For example, space is ensured for them to enjoy hobbies or to move easily to and from the living room or garden. To respond to these needs, housing-related companies should begin to make various efforts to promote housing construction for elderly people.

Also, in the case of elderly people living together with parents or children, naturally they will be excited with such arrangements in terms of family interchange and feelings of safety, but room layout may just be the problem.

It is also not so much if housing construction goes as far as considering the mental health of elderly people.

Convenient Housing for a Better Aged Society
Convenient housing for a better aged society can only be possible if the government institute guidelines that will encourage barrier-free design so that the elderly and physically disabled persons can live comfortably

Even if people do not have the opportunity to build new homes or rebuild existing ones, they can employ various ideas to reduce the anxiety and stress in daily life. Just like in advanced countries, housing-related goods for elderly people available, such as sloping blocks for steps and slip-prevention mats for stairs and bathtubs should be made available. I’m sure efforts like these to remove obstacles and improve the quality of life in the aged society will be a welcome development


One comment

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