WHILE presenting it’s economic potential, India’s demographic dividend has been a much talked about feature. India’s youth (working age) population is expected to rise by 100 million people between now and 2025, according to a report by Macquarie Research and Global Demographics. While at the same time population ageing appears to be increasing here and globally at an unprecedented rate.
The United States Health and Human Services reported that the older population (persons 65 years and older) numbered 39.6 million in 2009. This represents approximately 12.9% of the entire U.S. population. It is projected that by 2030 this figure might increase to 72.1 million persons. In the UK, the number of older population is estimated to increase by 23 % from 10.3 million in 2010 to 12.7 million in 2018 while according to the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care (2001) over 25% of the Australian population will be aged over 65 by 2051.
This phenomenon presents many social and economic challenges for a myriad of stakeholders particularly those involved in the property and construction sector. ‘Enabling older people to age in place is a complicated task. It requires comprehensive planning and provision of a wide range of support services in the community as well as the removal of barriers that segregate older people and limit their activities’ (Lui et al., 2009). This implies that further considerations are required in all aspects of the design or redesign of the built environment to cater for the needs of the older population including: housing; transportation; civic participation and employment; community support as well as health services among others. An age-friendly built environment optimizes opportunities for health, participation and security to enhance the quality of life as people age.
Yet, interestingly, my recent analysis reveals that mainstream sustainability rating tools such as BREEAM, LEED, Green Star as well as HK-BEAM among others which are meant to guide the development of buildings and the built environments have not fully embraced the concept of age-friendliness. Embedding age-friendly criteria in SRTs would surely encourage more meaningful dialogues on the concept of active ageing and possibly raise awareness among developers on the importance of this issue. The challenges involved, for example, the cost implications of embedding age-friendly features is another area which has not been explored in sufficient depth.
Indeed, much more attention is needed from policy-makers and service providers to meet the needs of the elderly. Local governments can play a vital role in this by introducing new policies or incentive schemes to encourage property developers to incorporate age-friendly criteria in the design of the built environments.
Dr Renard Siew is a researcher based at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM). His research interest lies in sustainability/ integrated reporting, ESG research, socially responsible investment (across different asset classes: equities, infrastructure and property/real estate), climate change, sustainability strategy and green construction for the building/infrastructure sector. Renard did his PhD at UNSW with the support of the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Scholarship. He has published in international refereed journals on various sustainability issues in Asia.