GoodLife! Makan, an activity centre for senior citizens designed by DP Architects for Montfort Care, prepares for the Silver Tsunami. Singapore has one of the world’s fastest-ageing populations. Among this population are stay-at-home seniors who are isolated from society and at risk for depression, suicidal tendencies, and deaths at home.
GoodLife! Makan is one of several GoodLife! centres run by Montfort Care. While it focuses on food sharing as the primary programme, its core design ethos are propagated to transform other centres and similar spaces in different housing estates across the island into ageing-in-place care facilities.
The design of GoodLife! Makan leverages the familiar setting of the HDB void deck for the seniors. As someone who grew up in public housing, I appreciate this and other forms of everyday community spaces.
The presence of void decks provides a range of opportunities for these gathering areas to be crafted according to the needs of different communities to foster greater cohesion.
It is also easier to activate the participatory design process in these ubiquitous heartland spaces, encouraging community members to co-create and shape design outcomes and strengthen the sense of belonging among community members.
Our public housing landscape, for example, is characterised by void decks intended for social events, activities, and interactions between residents. They should remain as porous, adaptable spaces for social interaction and community bonding.
Pandemic-related circumstances have moved the centre’s activities online and meals are sent to seniors’ homes instead of being prepared and cooked by seniors on site. Architecturally, however, the centre has been designed to be highly flexible and resilient.
Open, porous settings are conducive to good air circulation and ventilation, which helps mitigate indoor health concerns and maintain good indoor air quality standards. The interior design also makes it easier to implement social distancing measures.
Mobile furniture and seating, for example, can be rearranged, and the capacity adjusted to suit changing standards. With of the new nursing station, seniors now also have access to the centre’s health advisory and care services.
The pandemic has compelled the consideration of safety distancing and redundancy, but it has also emphasised the importance of community as a source of support and well-being during times of uncertainty.
The fundamental principle behind GoodLife! Makan addresses seniors’ existential and emotional needs by integrating them back into their communities and empowering them through group collaboration and close participation.
Thus, we are mindful that any new design consideration must remain in line with our aspirations.
Through GoodLife! we hope to convey the need for more advocacy and action to support members of our society who may feel forgotten or invisible. Furthermore, we hope to demonstrate that design, when done purposefully, is a powerful vehicle for promoting social interaction, cohesion and bonding.
Design can reframe how the community sees seniors and how they see themselves.
We should encourage future generations of communities, young and old, to embrace the concept of designing spaces that support not just physical integration but also broader social synergy and community cohesion.
DP Architects is currently working with Montfort Care to reimagine their network of social centres and care facilities, to elevate the sense of wellness and inclusiveness by design.