Let’s get right to the facts:
Life expectancy for the average Israeli citizen today is 80 years for men and 84 years for women.
The age distribution in Israel’s population is about 10% senior citizens (65 and above) and about 28% children under the age of fourteen.
By the year 2025 those statistics will be about 13% seniors and only about 24% children.
Why am I overloading you with all this data? Because the numbers show that seniors are IN!
For the purposes of this post and others that will follow it, we need to ask, “How do we define an elderly person?” Tractate “Avot” in the Mishna says: “We are old at sixty.” In today’s world, too, people begin to receive special benefits, pensions and allowances between the ages of 60 and 65.
Now hold it – before you get annoyed! – we can come up with other titles and descriptions of this sector by referring to the elderly as mature, retired, entering the golden era, sixty-plus and so on. I’m willing to go along with any of these terms when I’m writing about design issues for this group but to tell you the truth, I see the term ‘elderly’ as one of distinction. Think how hard you’ve worked and how much effort you’ve put in in order to get to this age! And our sages agree with me (or to be exact, they came first…)
"כשנעשה אדם בן שישים שנה ונכנס לעשירית שביעית של שנות חייו, הרי בא בימים ושנים שכולן שבת"
When a person becomes sixty and enters his seventh decade, he is then old and his days are as days of Sabbath
The Maharal explains this as meaning: “When he is old, a man’s physical strength wanes but his intellectual powers become stronger and stronger.”
So I personally see the word “elderly” as a badge of honor and elderly people as those whose huge reservoirs of life experience continuously teach me and inspire me. Many of the important things I’ve learned over the years in this business, I’ve learned from my elderly clients.
Let’s go back to the data from the introduction:
- A person’s life is divided into three “acts”. Act One spans the years between birth and adulthood (recent research shows that in the West, some people do not reach maturity until age 30). Act Two is the period between the point at which we reach adulthood and the point at which we retire, and Act Three is for the age of 65 and above, the stage at which we have become elderly. Now if we look at the time period that Act Three covers we see that, contrary to previous generations, it is not just a brief epilogue for the previous two stages but a lengthy and meaningful life-stage in its own right. A good body of research indicates that, at this age, people are more relaxed and more open to personal development and communal activism.
- The percentage of elderly people in the population is approaching about half the percentage of children in the population.This leads us to understand that the elderly have considerable influence over all that happens in the societal, economic and family frameworks.How many stores do you know of that cater to children and their needs? Conversely how many stores do you know of that specialize in products for the elderly?
And how is all of this related to home design?
We’ve gotten used to the idea of specialty design for children, design for offices, design for the disabled, design for kindergartens and designing for schools and institutions.Well, there’s also design for the elderly (or retirees/pensioners/seniors… whichever description you prefer!) This doesn’t belong to any other category of design because:
- There are access and accessibility issues but these are not planned in the same way as for disabled clients.
- There are family factors to take into account but these don’t resemble those of the previous life stages. On the one hand the “children” no longer live at home, but on the other they come to visit. On the third hand they bring the grandchildren with them, and on the fourth hand…
- What about the marital status of the client? Is he or she single, part of a couple, in a second marriage?
- The financial decisions are complex. On the one hand an elderly person may be enjoying some long-awaited financial security, and have savings and disposable income. On the other, even if this is the case, the future is very uncertain and it’s hard to predict what will be. On the third hand there are grown children who might need help and support in the future, and the fourth hand we already mentioned, right?
- At this “golden” third stage we are constantly developing, growing, changing, and adjusting to new circumstances—in our bodies, our families, and communities—more than at any other time in our lives. So we have to take this into account for the home we are creating.
- There is the simple beauty of planning a home for “the golden age.” A home where there is serenity, calm and perspective.
If you are age 65 or over please know that, the design of your home is a very special undertaking. It won’t look anything like the planning and building you did when you were 30 or the house you bought when you were 40. It will require a new, “out of the box” kind of thinking in which you will want to put aside old habits and lifestyles, and focus on new horizons and a new vision. No need to compromise by going for the “young” look and trying to adapt it to your needs and lifestyle. This is the time to assert yourself and come up with a fully integrated design that exactly suits your needs and budget. In other words… we start from scratch! And this time, the way home will be challenging and enjoyable— an experience to “build you up.”
We’ll continue to expand on these ideas with practical recommendations. Meanwhile, don’t give up on the dream!
Creating spaces people want to live in