Vertical Aging: Social Spaces

This report is one in a series by UHN’s OpenLab titled Vertical Aging: The future of Aging in Place in Urban Canada

The third in the series of reports looks at Social Spaces. A widely referenced meta-analysis from 2010 found that social isolation exceeds obesity and physical inactivity as a risk factor for mortality. Furthermore, a lack of supportive social network is linked to a 60% increase in the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. The design of our physical spaces matters more to psycho-social states of well-being than ever previously imagined. This report aims to understand the stock of rental apartment buildings (in Toronto) that qualify as NORCs from a spatial and environmental standpoint and presents a series of design opportunities to inform future “social retrofits”.

AMS Healthcare partnered with UHN OpenLab to explore the trend of Canadian seniors increasingly moving to urban apartments, condos and co-ops in order to remain living independently. The project saw the AMS-funding support OpenLab efforts to develop products and technology-enabled solutions to support seniors while aging in these vertical communities. That funding has resulted in the 3 high-potential concept models that could shape the future of aging in place presented in the ‘Vertical Aging’ reports.

These models take the decades-old concept of a Naturally Occurring Retirement UHN OpenLabCommunity (NORC) – regular residential building that have become home to a high density of older adults- and reimagines them within the context of the tech-driven world of today and the near future. And it does so with due consideration for enabling seniors to age in place with choice and dignity, and without losing sight of what it means to be human.