Integrated Retirement Community – a new architectural imperative

“Integrated Retirement Community” is a collective term bringing together the different types of specialist accommodation and facilities that are designed to support people in older age.

This new term reflects the integrated approach championed by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO). As critical thinking has evolved in this area of design and research, a confusing mix of vocabulary and terminology has evolved around the subject. Terms such as ‘extra care, assisted living, retirement accommodation’ etc. have been used to highlight distinctions between services and typologies, at the expense of establishing common ground.

The new term Integrated Retirement Community (IRC) not only serves to unify discourse and provide a more inclusive shorthand language, but rather the underlying aim of this term is to drive an integrated approach to design and construction in the retirement sector at large. A paradigm shift is needed to place the emphasis back on ‘community’ to give people a more diverse, adaptable, and supported experience throughout their retirement living.

‘The Associated Retirement Community Operators’ is the main body representing the Integrated Retirement Community sector in the UK, and they are championing the socio-economic value of the IRC model. The new term was decided on after years of research and engagement with older people, and further detail about this process can read on ARCO’s website. Through these discussions, the word ‘integrated’ emerged as the key ingredient to success in three key areas; Integrated Lifestyle; Integrated Care; Integrated with the wider community.

As an Affiliate of ARCO we fully endorse this change and hopefully it can help to bring focus to the industry and what it is we design. The full definition of an IRC is:

Integrated Retirement Communities combine high quality housing options for older people with tailored support services. They allow residents to rent or own a property and to maintain their privacy and independence, with the reassurance of 24-hour on-site staff, communal facilities, and optional care and support as needed.

So who exactly needs to swat up on what Integrated Retirement Communities are? As designers and thought leaders in this area, the team at WWA Studios are already discussing this integrated approach with key players in the industry through expert knowledge platforms such as Housing LIN, to housing associations and developers. WWA’s Director Mark Slater, and Associate Kathryn Gundry are leading our response to this necessary cultural shift, if you would like to find out more, or just join the conversation please get in touch using the contact details below.