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Hope Foundation pushes consideration of elderly needs

Designing houses for people who don’t live there, and footpaths for people who don’t walk on them…

The trend towards townhouse & apartment living isn’t always matched by designs that suit the occupants, especially the elderly & disabled, Hope Foundation chairman David Richmond says.

Professor Richmond outlined the foundation’s position at the Auckland City Council city development committee meeting on 8 September.

The Hope Foundation for research on aging was formed 9 years ago, in recognition of the rising proportion of the population over the age of 65. That proportion will exceed 25% by 2030.

Professor Richmond set out suggestions in 6 categories.

Housing development

Professor Richmond listed important factors needing attention:

the provision of bedroom & bathroom accommodation on ground level, or easily negotiable stairs within the house if it isn’t on a single level
easy access to the property from the street & from any garage
clear access to bathroom & toilet facilities for disabled people
good exterior lighting in the interests of safety
energy efficiency – “There is clear evidence that many older people on fixed incomes are reluctant to heat their homes because of the cost of energy. It is our contention that the technology now exists to substantially increase the energy efficiency of housing and we submit that building standards should now reflect that.”
some multi-storeyed apartment buildings have been erected with access by stair only. “Ideally elevators should be designed into such buildings to allow access by older people & those with disabilities, beyond the ground floor.”
“We would suggest that housing developers be required to provide a percentage of housing within each development which is appropriate for older persons & protected for their use as far as practicable.

Public transport

Professor Richmond said provision of adequate (protected from the weather) & safe (well lit) passenger waiting shelters at bus stops & terminals was essential. Getting in & out of buses had to be easy if old people no longer fit to drive were to overcome isolation.


It seems obvious enough, but Professor Richmond made the point: “Safe, even & level footpaths with adequate street lighting are needed throughout the city. There are hundreds of kilometres of poorly maintained footpaths in Auckland City: in many areas, footpaths are so uneven as to constitute a danger to both old & young people.”

I interpolate: The council set itself an ambitious $20 million programme last year to improve the state of its footpaths. As some of the most prominent central city streets plainly show, ease of passage for the pedestrian has not been the primary consideration.

As you turn off Queen St into Customs St West – an area frequented by the tourists we want to return home with a positive impression – negotiating the footpath becomes a mountaineering expedition. The pavement is designed to enable shoppers into shop doors and to end not too far above the roadway level.

Last year’s brickwork laid on the Customs St West side of Quay Tower is similarly unrelated to the needs of pedestrians, and the crossing into the PricewaterhouseCoopers Tower parking demonstrates the inadequacy of design.

These are 2 of the most recently laid sections of footpath in the inner city. Both make pedestrian use of the footpath uncomfortable, and one is dangerous. A sheep could produce a better design… aah, there’s a thought…

Professor Richmond also expressed his personal view: “I go running at 5.30 every morning. The footpaths in my area, Remuera, are shockingly bad. Most of the runners I know run on the roads because they’re a better surface than the footpaths.”

14 June 2003: City aims to raise footpath standards


Professor Richmond said clear & easily readable signage was a necessity. “Consideration should be given to minimum criteria for display of house & building numbers, especially for night-time visibility.” At T junctions, the cross road was often not identified.


Directional road surface markings should start further from the intersection, “to allow older drivers more time & room to change lanes if necessary.”


The professor asked if the council had done any research recently on the needs of older & disabled people, why many chose to move out & how the costs of living in the city impacted on them – and found some had been done.

Council planning director Jill McPherson said research indicated elderly Aucklanders sold up to gain equity from their homes for retirement, and also sold up to move to the beach.

Website: Hope Foundation

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