A&DS Director of Place, Diarmaid Lawlor, blogs about what makes a caring place in the first of a series of articles. Find out more about our upcoming work on town centre living and a caring place here.
Ageing is a fact. After all, it has been happening across all of history. Despite the fact that more people are getting older, ageing isn’t the major challenge of the 21st century. The lack of choices to support ageing with dignity is. And at the heart of this is a conversation about care, and a conversation about the kind of places we can shape to support more choices for more people.
A Healthy Town Centre
The ‘Town Centre First’ principle emerged in Scotland as a core recommendation of the External Advisory Group on Town Centres. The purpose of this principle is to provoke conversations about the benefits of collaboration and to consideration of the impacts on town centres from decisions to invest or disinvest in services. The aim of the principle was to support the health of town centres as people places.
So, what is a healthy town centre? A town centre that works is a social place. It contains memory, services, inherited infrastructure, accessibility and affordability. True, many town centres are changing. The economic purpose has shifted. True, there is increasing emptiness on some High Streets. But equally true is that these places offer potential to be re-imagined around social needs. And a core social need of the 21st century is to provide more choices in care.
A Caring Place
Architecture and Design Scotland is exploring the idea of Caring Places. These are places that enhance and extend people’s care choices by creatively re-imagining the spaces and places we already have.
Thinking about Caring Places might invite us to ask: do we believe that places today are less caring than the past. No. The recent snow in Scotland shows that there is community spirit which comes out at scale in crisis situations. Its not that places have become less caring. It is the case that the demands for care have increased, family structures are changing, and who cares is changing too.
Addressing Specific Needs
A Caring Place aims to address the specific needs of three groups of people.
First is the person who wants to, and is able to, live at home independently. This is self-care and care with the support of friends and neighbours. The better a place works, the more it sustains services and amenities, the easier it is for this group to sustain its choice of care.
Second is the group of people who need formal care delivered by statutory services or community interests. Widening choices, from ageing at home to technology assisted care, care communities and care homes can allow for real choices to maintain independence at each level of the care spectrum. It also enables families to support the choices of their loved ones in a familiar environment that is well-resourced and adaptable.
Third are the carers. The scale of ageing and the urgency of delivering early years services means that recruitment into care is a big issue. This workforce provides valuable work for society and families and deserve real, meaningful choices to sustain their own families, to progress their careers and to participate in their own communities. Affordable housing choices, amenities that are well maintained, integrated services and pathways to different learning and work choices across their lifetime matter. A Caring Place cares for the people who are cared for and for those who are the carers. This isn’t about separate places for separate groups. It is, simply, about places that work, places with choice, places people want to be.
Over the next year Architecture and Design Scotland will test the possibilities of a Caring Place with older people, with carers, with stakeholders and decision makers, with a view to piloting how we can better make ‘Caring Places’ drawing on the power of design. We welcome your participation.