What is the future for third age living in multicultural cities?

23 Apr 24

With UN projections indicating that two out of every three people worldwide will reside in cities by 2050, the demographic makeup of urban areas is undergoing significant shifts. In the UK, multicultural cities, which serve as microcosms of global cultures, the opportunities and challenges for implementing age-friendly inclusive housing initiatives are evident.

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The UK’s population is ageing. The Third Age Living sector aims to provide specialised housing options to meet the needs of adults transitioning into later life. However, as urbanisation accelerates and cities become increasingly diverse, what are the implications of the growing sector for ethnic minorities?

With UN projections indicating that two out of every three people worldwide will reside in cities by 2050, the demographic makeup of urban areas is undergoing significant shifts. In the UK’s multicultural cities, which serve as microcosms of global cultures, the opportunities and challenges for implementing age-friendly inclusive housing initiatives are evident.

Traditionally, retirement communities have often been portrayed as homogeneous spaces, catering primarily to a white, affluent demographic. However, this narrative and the sector are rapidly evolving as it seeks to meet the need for more inclusive spaces.

One example is Tonic Housing, who are a provider of LGBTQ+ affirmative retirement housing, providing access to queer friendly accommodation in Vauxhall. They provide access to a range of services and often cater their activities for residents interests with a queer focus in collaboration with other LGBTQ+ organisations.

Housing providers like Tonic are altering perceptions surrounding third age living and raise further questions over the inclusivity of these spaces for other marginalised groups. In culturally diverse cities such as London, how can these spaces become more inclusive for ethnic minorities?

Providers of older needs accommodation such as Tonic housing show one way in which retirement communities can also be made more inclusive to ethnic minorities. Celebrating cultural holidays, culturally sensitive meal options and co-operation with grassroots organisations to host events inclusive of diverse audiences can easily be incorporated into the sector. Additionally, access to extra support such as multilingual services and information could also further enable and encourage diversity within retirement communities.

However, inclusive practises can go further within the planning and design process. Kitchens can be designed to include separation of food provisions. Bedrooms and reception areas can be built with flexibility in mind to cater to a range of uses such as prayer. Multiple living areas can also provide space for gender-separate facilities where appropriate.

But for some, the concept of sending parents and grandparents to retirement communities is off the cards altogether. In many cultures across the world, children and grandchildren must look after elders.

Enter intergenerational living schemes. An intergenerational living scheme is a housing arrangement where people of different age groups, typically from different generations, live together in shared accommodation. Not only do they provide a more inclusive option within the sector for different cultures but they also further encourage social integration amongst generations. Take Melfield Gardens in Lewisham, a scheme designed for residents aged 55+ and post-graduate students. The scheme offers students cheaper rent in exchange for assisting older residents or participating in communal activities to combat the loneliness of older residents.

As the Third Age Living sector evolves to meet the needs of diverse urban populations, embracing inclusive practices and intergenerational living schemes offers promising avenues for fostering community cohesion and meeting the needs of ethnic minorities in multicultural cities like London.

Iceni will be hosting a Breakfast Seminar next week, looking at numerous examples of alternative residential developments meeting the diverse needs of all parts of the community. If you would like a copy of the summary brochure, please contact me.