The following research proceeds from the hypothesis that ageing in place is a promising conceptual tool for future urban planning and policies, irrespective of national context, with the potential to reframe the dominant planning mindset which is less favourable to older adults as relevant stakeholders in the wider community and create supportive environments for older adults to age independently, with dignity and with choice.
The global future of urban planning and policymaking is increasingly being shaped by several trends, whether they are related to technological advancement, climate change, rural exodus or shifting population age demographics. The latter topic offers a compelling thematic lens through which future urban planning developments must be considered, because the overarching characteristics of citizens are inherent to the types of urban practices and developments that should be implemented. The steadily increasing trend of population ageing in most OECD countries, in combination with continuous urbanization, is creating a similar demographic situation where older people compose a significant share of the population. This demographic trend has serious implications for urban planners, researchers, and policy makers, as cities and urban areas need to become more age-friendly and inclusive at different spatial scales to better accommodate a user group with specific needs.
The first research stage outlines the hypothesis against a background of an extensive literature review, identifying several dichotomies from which to frame further analysis in the case study section. The literature review on population ageing and ageing in place begins with a description of the latter’s evolution in social gerontology and urban planning. This section draws from literature and research in a global context, organized into specific dichotomies present in ageing discourse. The dichotomies include developed versus developing or less developed countries; rural versus urban areas; the role of institutions versus the role of family networks; material conditions versus social conditions. The literature review draws from multiple national perspectives, paying specific attention to the Canadian and Italian contexts according to case study choice. The literature review will draw parallels between the literature from Canadian and Italian contexts, to find commonalities or differences in how concepts are defined. These dichotomies are developed from a wide-ranging literature review that includes both Canadian and Italian resources, as well as generalized journal articles. The literature review defines the concept of ageing in place, provides a broad overview of ageing in place as a planning concept over time, and poses useful comparisons and questions about the existing use of ageing in place in policy. The literature review thus provides a base for the subsequent research to follow from, highlighting the myriad iterations of ageing in place in planning.
The discussion of ageing in place in this thesis research is presented as a complex concept that cannot be limited to one specific spatial level or social relationship. Therefore, the following research undertakes an analysis of ageing in place through three different spatial scales and via two different case study contexts. The second research stage outlines the research design of the case studies sites: Windsor in Ontario, Canada and Brescia in Lombardy, Italy. The choices of Canada and Italy as the contexts for case study sites is useful because both countries have experienced different social and housing policy traditions in the respective North American and European contexts. Both countries also have a combination of universalism and selectivity in their welfare regimes, while similarly experiencing important population ageing trends. The choice of middle-sized cities is useful for the scope of this thesis research because they offer an intermediate context to research and implement ageing in place strategies, which would be more difficult in large metropolitan cities experiencing greater socioeconomic inequalities, or in rural areas experiencing greater distances between residents and services. The chosen sites are similar in their significant share of older residents, population sizes, economic evolution from manufacturing to diversification, extensive healthcare systems and relevance as strategic city in their unique surroundings, with Ontario and Lombardy being the most populated province/region in Canada and Italy, respectively. The choice to have two case studies allows the research to consider how ageing in place as a policy concept is understood differently, to further the hypothesis that ageing in place serves as a viable and feasible planning tool notwithstanding different national contexts.
Both case studies are organized in the same structure and following the same spatial scales of analysis, so that inferences on challenges and possibilities can be defined more clearly. This section introduces Windsor, Canada and Brescia, Italy and describes their historic development, geography and climate, economy, political context, health infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, parks, cultural, religious, and recreational facilities. Following these observations, this section describes the population demography and growth forecast for the respective case study cities, while drawing comparisons between the policy orientations and changes over time, as they affect the type and amount of financial or material support for older adults ageing in place. In the Canadian context, Windsor has historically been the recipient of financial and policy initiatives at all levels of government, aiming to support adults to live in and maintain their private homes. Political parties with strong influence and voter bases in Windsor and the wider Ontario province include the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party of Canada, which have resulted in well-established policy orientations of healthcare as a universal right, increased support of minority groups, and environmental activism to combat climate effects. In comparison, the national, regional, and municipal context surrounding Brescia, Italy has also historically enjoyed a strong welfare state, however, there are differences in the amount of power exercised by provinces and municipalities to affect social policies, which can leave funding gaps or lack of clearly defined responsibilities on the part of institutions. The two cities also have a similar economic evolution in that both Windsor and Brescia had strong industrial histories, with Windsor’s background in the automotive industry and Brescia’s background in manufacturing and machinery. However economic crises and out-migration of industrial activity over the decades have resulted in the two cities experiencing employment issues and efforts to diversify the economy towards tourism and the commercial sector. Building from these descriptions of economy and political context shaping both cities, this section develops an analysis of housing in both case study cities as they relate to the living conditions of older populations aged 65 years and older. This analysis of housing will be framed specifically from three spatial scales, according to the data on housing conditions of older adults in the respective case study cities. The case studies also consider both privately owned homes and social housing apartments to offer an additional dimension and acknowledge the socioeconomic conditions for ageing in place. The three spatial scales of analysis will be the internal characteristics of the home, the external characteristics of the home, and the neighbourhood, looking at both detached homes and apartment buildings. The analysis will select a specific neighbourhood in the case study city, based on the share of older residents aged 65 years and older. Furthermore, the analysis of housing related to a specific neighbourhood in two different cities will briefly discuss the historic changes in housing design, spatial layout, and lifestyle norms as they speak to how older residents inhabit their environment.
The third research stage consists of a review of existing policies and programs respective to both case study sites within the scope of ageing in place, to understand the extent to which ageing in place has been described or implemented as an urban planning and policy tool. The review of existing policies considers the wider territorial context of both case studies, to include policies and programs at the national and regional/provincial scale with the municipal scale. To provide a contextualized understanding of the existing policies and projects, this section will include a brief historic evolution of ageing in place policies and projects in those specific case study areas to provide an understanding of how ageing in place as a policy concept has evolved according to demographic shifts, emerging social issues, and institutional contexts. Finally, this section will describe to what extent the existing ageing in place policies and programs are addressing the issues outlined in the case studies. This section will highlight the areas of policy and design innovation that are supporting ageing in place, while simultaneously holding a critical lens to the areas that are lacking in both cities. From the policy and program review, several challenges, and possibilities for ageing in place as an urban planning and tool are highlighted for their relevance to both case study areas and to other cities or urban areas considering ageing in place in policymaking. These challenges and possibilities are organized into three broad thematic areas relating to ageing in place: care, home, and ICT. These thematic areas are primarily based on the findings from the case study analysis and policy review, but also recall some of the findings from the literature review.
The final section recalls the hypothesis and research question to propose six policy programs based on the six challenges and possibilities identified in the third stage. The proposals are similarly organized in the thematic areas of ageing in place relating to care, home, and ICT, and are considered according to a unique spatial scale of analysis. By combining the five dichotomies from the first stage’s literature review, the three spatial scales of analysis from the second stage’s case study analysis, and the three thematic areas identified in the third stage’s policy review, the final stage reaches a conclusion on how ageing in place as an urban planning and tool can be replicated and scaled up in future planning. The final section unites the analysis of the current conditions for ageing in place in both case studies with the discussion of existing policies and programs, to propose flexible urban policies to support ageing in place for different geographic contexts and housing typologies. This section will work within the framework of the six challenges and possibilities to propose an ageing in place plan at different spatial scales, and reference and propose innovative methodologies to highlight the possibility for adapting existing policies or programs. The final section will effectively highlight the capacity of ageing in place as a viable urban planning concept and tool to frame future policies and programs, by putting forth various areas of interest to adapt the urban fabric as a place for residents of all ages and abilities to live with independence, dignity, and choice.