Building for Independent Living: Creating Age-Friendly Communities That Foster Active Lifestyles

Africa is known as the world’s youngest continent. According to UNFPA ESARO, “young people make up the largest and fastest growing proportion of the general population in East and Southern Africa. In 2022, 32 percent of the population were youth aged 10 to 24 years (almost 208 million).” Two generations from now, this young population will be senior citizens. In anticipation of this, there is a need to develop retirement homes that facilitate independent living in age-friendly communities that foster active lifestyles.

The Hills Lifestyle is an example of Zimbabwean property developers designing retirement homes that promote independent living. Independent living refers to housing options specifically created for older adults, typically aged 55 and above. The housing options can range from apartments to detached homes. Generally, these housing options are more suitable for older adults, with features like compactness, easy navigation, and no need for maintenance or yard work. This is what is commonly referred to as “age-friendly communities.”

According to PAHO, “An age-friendly city or community is a place that adapts its services and physical structures to be more inclusive and receptive to the needs of its population to improve their quality of life as they age.” In order to effectively achieve this, a good design of an age-friendly community should utilise the Human-Centred Design approach.

Human-centred design is an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ergonomics, and usability knowledge and techniques. This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance.”  ISO 9241-210:2019(E)

By taking into consideration the needs of the matured community and integrating their explicit lifestyle needs, this ensures that The Hills Lifestyle Estate retirement homes being designed are built to provide the utmost level of wellness and comfort. When this is done correctly, it invigorates the market and makes the properties the most sought after and simultaneously a worthy investment.

In addition to Human-Centred Design, The Hills Lifestyle Estate also took into consideration the eight domains of the World Health Organisation framework for age-friendly communities which  include:

  • Outdoor spaces and buildings.
  • Transport.
  • Housing.
  • Social participation.
  • Respect and social inclusion.
  • Civic participation and employment.
  • Communication and information.
  • Community support and health services.

The Hills Luxury Estate is redefining ageing in Zimbabwe and actively working towards a shift from ‘Dependence’ to ‘Active Living.’ This includes an intentional shift in perspective on ageing, moving away from limitations and towards an active lifestyle.

An active lifestyle is possible for seniors if it is age-appropriate and tailored to their specific age group. The benefits of staying active for physical and mental well-being are numerous. Engaging in regular exercise can lower the chances of getting long-term health issues like diabetes and osteoporosis. It can also enhance coordination and balance. Studies show that it can decrease the likelihood of seniors experiencing depression and anxiety.

The Zimbabwean concept of senior living needed revising and innovation because traditional communities for older adults posed several issues to their intended target market. These include issues such as physical barriers for example, stairs and narrow doorways. In adherence to the Disabled Persons Act in Zimbabwe, providing inclusive spaces to people living with disabilities is paramount. People with disabilities should be able to access all spaces as people without disabilities.

The need for companionship and a social life is an integral part of a matured person’s life. Lack of adequate spaces for socialisation may potentially lead to feelings of isolation and lack of social interaction in traditional communities. This means good retirement homes should provide recreational facilities, activities and opportunities for the retired residents to come together and socialise. By offering a variety of activities such as exercise classes, games, outings promotes both physical and mental well-being and fosters a sense of community.

Fitness and wellness programs are a criteria that people use to determine the quality of life in a retirement home. Provision of access to fitness facilities, exercise classes, and healthy dining options to encourage an active lifestyle is a key feature that helps people to opt into a retirement home. As people get older, they need age-appropriate fitness activities to keep them nimble and healthy. These facilities should be inclusive of people who have different ailments or handicaps. This includes features like walkable layouts, smart home integration, and accessible amenities.

Age-friendly communities are integral for fostering active and independent living for older adults. The main value proposition of age-friendly communities is promoting well-being and social inclusion. By adhering to the World Health Organisation’s 8 eight domains for age-friendly communities, developers can provide fully-equipped retirement homes for the elderly to live out their golden years with autonomy and dignity.

The key features of The Hills Lifestyle Estate as an Age-Friendly Community:

Accessible and walkable neighbourhoods.

In addition to sidewalks, ramps, and public transportation options to promote mobility, The Hills Lifestyle Estate is a mixed-use development with facilities and amenities located within walking distance.

Safe and secure environments.

Well-lit streets, secure housing options, and emergency response systems will ensure that our residents and their loved ones will have peace of mind knowing every security precaution has been taken for the residents.

Opportunities for social connection.

Community recreational centres, senior centres, and public spaces that encourage interaction and social engagement fall under the ‘Play’ pillar of The Hills Lifestyle Estate. A wide range of interests will be catered to so that life in The Hills is a new adventure everyday.

Access to healthcare and services.

Close proximity to healthcare providers, pharmacies, and other essential services is assured for The Hills Lifestyle Estate residents. Belvedere is a medical hub with various health care institutions and pharmacies all less than 15 minutes away from the residential golf estate. The fully-featured The Hills Mall will also have essential services within the confines of the estate.

Accessible housing.

The Hills Lifestyle has a collection and a variety of housing options with features that cater to ageing needs (e.g., grab bars, wider doorways). Aspiring residents will be able to choose between ‘Independent living’ housing options or ‘assisted living’ housing options. As a multi-generational residential estate, The Hills offers a wide range of homes to suit your personal needs.

Property developers have to continue to innovate and adapt to be able to respond to the ever-changing preferences of the market. By designing more age-friendly communities that foster active lifestyles, we can ensure that senior citizens have retirement homes that allow them to age gracefully with peace, adequate support, dignity and autonomy.

Learn more about WestProp’s The Hills Lifestyle Estate here.