91-year-old tenant helps DMU architecture students design homes for the future

Housing experts from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are teaming up with a 91-year-old tenant and a leading housing organisation to help architecture students design homes of the future.


Leicester School of Architecture and DMU’s Centre for Comparative Housing Research (CCHR) are working alongside social housing and care provider emh group and extra care scheme tenant Mona Walkden, 91, to comment on the proposals of Architecture students for an international competition.

The European Federation of Assisted Living is challenging Architecture students to design new homes for the elderly.


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By 2060, more than half of Europe’s population will be past retirement age – a fact which presents huge challenges to the housing sector to ensure homes are fit for purpose, accessible and affordable.

To help students understand the issues, April Knapp, regional development manager of emh group, and 91-year-old tenant Mona Walkden came to DMU to talk to students about design and needs of tenants for a special session.

Mona, who lives in Leicestershire, said: “I found it very interesting. I think atmosphere is so important and my feeling as that I would like them very much to look at fitments and see how difficult it is for elderly people in wheelchairs to use sinks and open cupboards as often there are problems.

“I’m very fit for my age but I live with people who are disabled and it gives you an insight into the problems they face. I feel that my job is to try to get the best living accommodation that you can possibly get for tenants.”


Chan Kataria, emh group Chief Executive, said: “With an ageing population, the need for more suitable housing for the older generations has never been more acute. 

“We have started to address the situation with Oak Court, our extra care scheme in Blaby, Leicestershire, which is pioneering health and housing integration, but thousands more homes are needed across the country in order to meet the future needs of a rapidly changing society.”

Dr Jamileh Manoochehri, from the Leicester School of Architecture welcomed the invitation from Prof Richardson to take on the task of designing for an aging population.

Dr Manoochehri said: "The Architecture students are considering what constitutes dwelling and they are taking up the challenge of designing accessible dwellings that continue to feel like home.

"Each student is working on a different approach, some are concerned with overcoming the physical limitations that come with aging and others are investigating means of countering the isolation of the aging population by making use of the typology of the courtyard, or by designing homes that accommodate pets; and by establishing natural links between the interior and the natural world outside."

Professor Jo Richardson, director of DMU’s CCHR, approached emh group to help set up the event. The CCHR has carried out research on the future of housing and in particular highlighted the increasing need for affordable rental accommodation.

Prof Richardson said: “The changing population demographic is a huge challenge not only for the housing sector but health, business and the economy.

“This will be an opportunity for our students to learn from Mona and April’s experience and expertise.

“We are pleased to be able to use our close links with leaders in the field such as emh group to benefit students in their studies.”

Judges will be looking for high-quality ideas which address issues but also fit into people’s lifestyles and allow independent living as far as possible.  

Judges will consider entries from across Europe. The winner, who will receive 10,000 Euros in prizes, is due to be announced in March. 


Posted on Monday 23 November 2015

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