Community – particularly in the digital age – has become a much used, often overused term. But perhaps this also points to the importance of the word, the importance to feel part of a safe and connected social environment. A place to support you in your weakest moments and bring joy throughout your life regardless of your age or ability.

Lifetime Communities are the extension of this with the concept first introduced in Florida in 1999. There are many similar ideas across the world using different names, such as senior‐friendly or age-friendly communities, aging in place, and retirement villages. While the title may differ all of these concepts seek to achieve similar objectives. 

Lifetime Communities promote features that foster healthy and successful aging across the lifespan.

The real value of the Lifetime Communities approach is to consider all age groups equally and take an intergenerational approach to community development. Our social business model identifies this and through a number of projects, we are working with various partners to put in place a framework for Lifetime Communities. 

We first began researching Lifetime Communities in 2017 when we put together a proposal for Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge. An initiative under the Rebuilding Ireland programme (Action 2.19), which aimed to stimulate and encourage the design and construction industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing and smart technology solutions for older people.

Our project Cairdeas was delivered in partnership with Dutch-based urban design agency, dmau, and was one of five commended entries. Below is our animated submission for the project:

Extending on this work, thanks to funding from the National Disability Authority of Ireland, we have been investigating the universal design of fall detection technologies in the smart home and their impact on lifetime communities. This research project is run in partnership with the Nimbus Centre from CIT and the Health Innovation Hub and the final paper will be published later this year. Alongside Lifetime Communities, universal design forms an important element of our overall business model.

Much of this remains work on paper and as important background research but it is vital that we test and validate these concepts by working closely with local communities. Athenry is home to our social innovation hub in Athenry and, in partnership with the Community Council, we are developing a public space vision for the town which fully considers the research we have carried out to date. This project is funded through the Leader programme and will again work in partnership with dmau. The first phase to launch in February 2019.

Ami will also form a central part of the project by capturing data online through consultation with stakeholders in the town. In parallel to this, we are working with the Age Friendly Council in Mitchelstown to test ‘internet of things’ to support older people in the town. As both strands of the project emerge we will continue to launch new features on our website and roll out the Ami platform to develop a network of Lifetime Communities across the country.