As our network activities progress publications, workshop slides, and other dissemination materials while be posted here.

Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly every sector of society. In Japan, the world’s oldest nation with 27% of the population 65 years of age or older, the housing stock is constantly renewed. Due to the low quality of construction to meet demand of the booming population after the Second World War, and more recently, recurring code modifications to improve earthquake resilience, the average lifespan of a reinforced-concrete apartment building is only approximately 35 years. The constant renewal of the housing stock provides the opportunity to adapt for an ageing population. The UK, in contrast, has a younger population (18% of population is 65 years of age or older) and older, mostly low-rise housing mixed with newer high-rise apartments being built in urban centres. However, like many countries around the world, the UK is ageing rapidly. By 2050, older adults in the UK are expected to make up one quarter of the population. This begs the question of whether the UK built environment is adequately prepared for an ageing population.

A systematic review concluded, “neighbourhood environment is important for older adults’ health and functioning” (Yen et al., 2009: 455). Older adults are more likely than other age groups to spend more time in their immediate neighbourhoods and are more sensitive to the built environment than other age groups (Glass and Balfour, 2003; Kerr et al., 2012). In addition, research on activity/ life spaces indicates that as we age, so too do our life spaces—they effectively shrink, making it important to understand the impact of one’s immediate built environment on the wellbeing of the individual (Rosso et al., 2011). The environmental gerontology theory of ‘person-environment fit’ argues that as we age, we are more likely to experience some kind of impairment, and therefore more likely to be negatively impacted by the environment (Lawton, 1982). This is echoed in the geographies of ageing literature – the need to conduct multi-scalar inquiries, in addition to a move to more relational understandings of ageing and place (Skinner et al., 2015).

Explorations of ageing typically do not distinguish between the age of the built environment, when it was built, and the age of the residents living in it. Over the last twenty years private property-led regeneration has been a key component of urban redevelopment strategies in a wide range of global cities that has resulted in a thousands of new high-rise developments (Butler, 2007; Pow, 2011). This trend has been characterized by the emergence of a shift from older outer periphery, suburban and rural housing developments towards an increase in private sector residential construction in the centre of cities (Ford, 1994; Nelson, 2009; Scott, 2011). Due in part to land supply and demand factors, housing affordability in many global urban areas has declined sharply during this period – particularly for detached or freehold homes (Davidson and Lees, 2010). To meet demand for housing, high- rise neighbourhood development has been utilised as a means of providing housing ownership options while also stimulating investment in urban areas (Harris, 2011). In their early incarnations the development of high-end apartment neighbourhoods typically act as a driver of urban gentrification and neighbourhood renewal due to the increase in middle-class residents (Brueckner and Rosenthal, 2005; Skaburskis, 2010; Davidson and Lees, 2010). Yet questions remain about the long-term stability of these neighbourhoods and how adaptable this form of high-rise development is to future challenges, especially when viewed through the life-cycle of these developments and particularly in light of demographic change (Easthope, et al. 2014).

Much of this form of high-end residential urban development has been marketed towards younger and more mobile populations. At the same time there are concerns that the new high-rise developments in the urban cores are not being built so as to accommodate a range of demographics (Webb and Webber, 2017). In Japan this has resulted in large numbers of older suburban high-rise neighbourhoods losing their younger populations to urban areas while older residents remain in increasingly ageing, unsuitable apartments in need of investment and repair (Sorenson, 2007). In the UK, urban high-rise development has become a cornerstone of private sector led regeneration (Tallon, 2013). Like Japan, however, there are concerns that the new developments are geared towards a younger more mobile market, are poorly constructed, and are not designed so as to allow them to be adaptable to changing demographics. It is therefore important to explore not only demographic ageing within high-rise neighbourhoods, but also how the built environment ages along with existing residents and how to manage the linked concerns of demographic and physical ageing, referred to here as double-ageing, of high-rise neighbourhoods. Japan, with it’s longer history of high-rise development and rapidly ageing population provides a useful case study to understand how the UK might consider and adapt to demographic change in high-rise residential developments as it’s population. A

Our network aims to integrate and advance our understanding of how to manage the linked concerns of double-ageing high-rise neighbourhoods through the sharing of knowledge and experience of historic and current practice and research in the UK and Japan in order to identify future challenges and develop solutions for these neighbourhoods.


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