As Haaga, along with the rest of Helsinki, experiences a demographic shift, the need for age-friendly design is becoming increasingly important. The population of older people living in cities is growing at an unprecedented rate. In the future urban housing and mobility should be designed with the elderly residents in mind. Wellness, quality of life, independence, and a sufficient amount of social activity are among the key ingredients of living a happy old age. But how do the senior residents in Haaga area conceptualize the components of quality living? Do they feel that their needs are adequately met in current Haaga?
In order to examine these questions in more detail, I have drafted questions for a questionnaire that could be used for example in semi-structured interviews among the senior residents of Haaga. Naturally one would have to consider very carefully how a senior resident would be defined. Every age limit is bound to be arbitrary, and there is naturally a considerable variety of conditions and needs between 65 year olds and 80 year olds.
The opening section of the questionnaire intends to gather information about factors affecting their quality of life, and how those factors are connected to their habitational environment. What kind of activities do they have? Does the built environment support their daily routines? Do they feel an overall sense of capability in their lives? The second section addresses the practical support that the elderly might need. For example are there reasonable distances between transport stops, shops, benches, trees for shade, public toilets, and so on? Do they feel sufficiently engaged when it comes to decision-making within their neighbourhood? Or would they be willing to have some more influence on the infrastructure changes in their area? The third section tries to survey some of the problems that the eldrely might face. Do they feel a sense of insecurity in Haaga? Are there any places that they prefer not going to? Either due to lack of attainability or because of other reasons?
Naturally these questions are only preliminary and include only a minor portion of all the possible aspects. However, they could help finding ways to involve older people into the social life of their neighbourhood. By anticipating and responding to people’s needs the city would be able to capitalise on the significant social resource that older people provide. The most important precondition for this is to look at the city through the eyes of the eldrely.