We need to build more schemes for people of all ages declares Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud. By JANE SLADE
“We should be building communities for all ages and not segregating the old in retirement villages,” says Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4’s property programme Grand Designs.
“It’s very important that we build lifetime homes which you can adapt for wheelchair use, have stairs that would fit a stair lift and even an area to put in a proper lift, but we shouldn’t ghettoise a particular group of people.”
Kevin, who has presented Grand Designs since 1999, argues that making homes adaptable and building communities for people of all ages is the secret to rejuvenating older people and revitalising neighbourhoods.
“We have to accept that the population grows old together and gets geriatric together. But we should preserve the traditional roles of older people as being guardians and peace keepers. They have more time to look after the young, so the young can learn from them and they can learn from the young.”
For older people safety and security is about having a good community of neighbours rather than cameras, bars, gates and locks Kevin argues.
“It’s what happens in between the houses that counts. Having an edible landscape of allotments and fruit trees, as well as benches, gardens, a barbecue area, and public shared spaces where people can get out and meet each other.”
Kevin, 55, who lives with his wife and four children in a 15th century farmhouse in Somerset, has built several integrated property schemes with his company HAB Housing.
“We have a scheme in Stroud on an old hospital site,” he explains. “It’s a mixed community. An old lady of 92 who used to work at the hospital has come back to live in one of the apartments. There are lots of social things going on and plenty of shared space and she loves it.”
Having said that he adds that his own mother lives in a McCarthy and Stone development designed for the over 55s and even met her partner there. “She is very happy,” he admits. “But I’m not, in principle, in favour of segregating and ghettoising.”
Kevin McCloud trained and worked in theatre design before moving into the world of self-build and becoming presenter of Grand Designs; he was even responsible for installing the ornate rococo-style ceiling of vegetables in Harrods food hall.
Now he is busy promoting the Grand Designs Live exhibition next month.
“When people do scale down and build something it is a rejuvenating experience and gives them confidence,” he adds. “Some 40 per cent of people would like to build their own home and 400,000 are looking for a plot. But they don’t want to feel isolated.
“I would rather live somewhere I felt secure in the company of people I liked with people of all ages which I would find more rejuvenating that being surrounded by people of my own age who just wanted to play golf.”
Grand Designs Live is at London’s ExCel (2-10May) www.granddesignslive.com