Michael Heenan: Watch out for peak youth

Michael Heenan: Watch out for peak youth

The Fifths Estate, Issue: 19 September 2013

“There will be 700 million people in aged care in China in the next 20 years. Already there’s something like 400 million because of the one child policy, which will exacerbate the situation.

According to architect Michael Heenan, chief executive of Allen Jack + Cottier, we’re quickly heading into an era of peak youth. It’s world wide and we haven’t even started to grasp the consequences.

The implications struck Heenan recently when he was invited to speak on the subject at the World Architectural Festival in Singapore in early October, which is expected to attract up to 1000 architects. He’s also been asked to be a judge of 10 top global student groups on their submissions for retirement housing design.

The subject matter for his talk is intense: define the picture for the latter half of this century; what are the architectural implications of designing for older people; can we design to accommodate three generations under one roof? And what role can technology play?

By coincidence, Heenan is in the early stages of designing a high-rise retirement property for one of the major developers so is interested to track down the latest thinking. Sadly he’s struggling. In Australia not a lot of thought has been placed in that direction. But it should be.

It’s not much better elsewhere, he says.

The world has its head stuck in the ground” on this one, says Heenan.

“Child youth will soon peak world wide and then start to diminish.”

Including in the developing world as urbanising populations typically have fewer children.

Fifth Estate