A senior living residence in South London, known as an almshouse, has undergone innovative design changes to combat loneliness in its residents. Traditional English almshouses were designed hundreds of years ago to house low-income older adults. The residences were typically constructed away from the street, facing inward on a central courtyard or chapel, and isolated from the rest of the community. Such design elements served to isolate residents rather than bring them closer to the community.
The new building has been designed to encourage interaction with the surrounding community by placing a community lounge, café, and craft room on the street. This space will be open to use by residents as well as members of the local community. The lounge has an all-glass exterior to increase visibility of the almshouse, in addition to the eye-catching Victorian design of the overall structure. By attracting local community members, the new design aims to help residents stay connected to the area where they have lived for much of their lives, as well as encourage intergenerational interaction. Ideally, this new design will help to reduce isolation and improve well-being of the older adults living there.
On track to open in 2018, the new building will have more than 50 apartments arranged in the original u-shape, connected by a wide walkway that looks in on a central garden and courtyard. In designing this space, the architects worked with current residents, who expressed strong interest in incorporating the garden into their community. A private lounge for residents and other amenities will be included as well. The new design is consistent with the original purpose of the almshouse, but has been updated to meet the changing needs of older adults.