The Role of Housing Design in Achieving Aging in Place in China

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Abstract

The research presented in this article emerged from the ODESSA project on housing and care models that support aging in place. The built environment, and housing in particular, plays a crucial role in supporting older people to age in place. However, in the advent of improving life expectancy in China, an increasing number of older people are grappling with the hard choice between remaining in inadequate housing or moving to institutionalized settings. This article explores the role of housing design in achieving aging in place in the Chinese context. It first reviews research underpinning aging in place and age–friendly environments to understand their development and conceptualization globally and in China. In China, the increasing proportion of older people, over 65 years and over 85 years, is presenting a pressing need to focus on finding solutions that help older people to age well in their own homes, thus allowing older people to remain independent, and alleviating the increasing demand on the health and social care systems. Three focus groups were conducted in Beijing to explore aging in place by focusing on the following domains: accessibility, sensory, and cognitive. The aim was to engage with a diverse profile of participants to gain a robust cross-sectional understanding of their levels of awareness, needs, and the day–to–day challenges they face when navigating the built environment. This study emphasizes the importance of the Chinese context in understanding aging in place given the changing demographics, rapid urbanisation, cultural differences, and varying social trends. The findings from the focus groups offer lessons for international thinking on aging in place and provide an insight into the special considerations required to design barrier–free, comfortable environments to encourage better health, safety, independence, and a sense of community in China.