Aging in a Dense Urban Environment – Putting the Oldies to Work

Could urban farming in dense built form environments help manage the needs of the aging population?

The 2015 Intergeneration Report – Australia in 2055 projects that the number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double by 2055 compared with today. As part of this trend, it is expected that the labour force may decline, resulting in a smaller tax base therefore less ability to deliver services at the standards expected by the community (Australian Government, 2015). Providing flexible and suitable work opportunities to allow those over 65 to continue in the workforce will reduce the impact the aging population has on the economy.

The aging population trend is not just affecting Australia. Across Asia, the population is aging at a rapid rate.

“The number of people aged 65 and above in Asia is expected to grow 314% from 207 million in 2000 to 857 million in 2050” (SPARK Architects, 2015)

Singapore is no exception with its age distribution shifting significantly (SPARK Architects, 2015). To respond to this, the Singapore Government has established the Ministerial Committee on Aging (MCA), which has developed a vision for what is titled “Successful Aging”. Successful Aging is described as the “enhancement of participation, health, and security for seniors” (SPARK Architects, 2015).

Not only does Singapore have an aging population, it also faces food security issues due to its reliance on imports. Singapore has no hinterland for farming, therefore, 90% of its food source is imported (SPARK, 2015). To address both the aging demographic and food scarcity, SPARK Architects has come up with a conceptual idea for high density affordable retirement housing combined with urban farming. “The proposal titled “Home Farm”, integrates vertical aquaponic farming and rooftop soil planting with high-density housing designed for seniors that provides residents with a desirable garden environment and opportunities for post-retirement employment” (SPARK Architects, 2015).

The concept is described as offering multi-dimensional benefits related to economics, food security and quality, social engagement, health, sustainability, place making and healthcare provision (SPARK Architects, 2015).

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The high density design includes a range of unit sizes to respond to different preferences for living arrangements and financial situations. SPARK director Stephen Pimbley says that “it has potential to be implemented anywhere that has the climate to support leafy green vegetables on building facades and rooftops” (SPARK, 2015).

 One of the key objectives of Home Farm is the delivery of jobs for seniors where they live. Job opportunities stemming from this proposal include planting, harvesting, sorting, packing, tours, sales on site, delivery, cleaning, and so on (SPARK Architects. 2015). The work completed can then be remunerated through a salary, contribution to bills or free produce contributing to the health of the elderly residents.

With Australia facing similar issues with regards to an aging population, how we design our cities and housing will need to adapt to these changing conditions, ensuring the aging population has access to a diverse range of affordable housing in highly accessible locations. Perhaps the Home Farm model could work in Australia. The implementation of frameworks like Home Farm could provide the aging population a salary to supplement their super/ pension, along with free healthy produce and an outlet to get involved in social activities.
 What do you think? Could we remodel the retirement village template to a higher density outcome with the incorporation of urban farming? Could this model be built into how we undertake urban renewal developments into the future?

You can read more about the proposal here


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