Older Women’s Studio Development Project: A co-design project to inform design guidelines suitable to the housing needs of single homeless older women

Older Women’s Studio Development Project: A co-design project to inform design guidelines suitable to the housing needs of single homeless older women

Executive summary

The Older Women’s Studio Development Project was born out of concerns raised by the Single Women’s Homeless Alliance (SWHA) about the use of boarding houses to house older women, and the lack of evidence about the appropriateness of studio accommodation or new generation boarding houses for older women. SWHA established a specific working group to focus on this issue with representatives from Homelessness NSW, the Haymarket Foundation, the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre Boarding House Outreach Project and the Women’s Housing Company. The working group received funding from The Mercy Foundation and Homelessness NSW for the project.

The aim of the project was to explore whether the model of smaller accommodation was suitable for housing homeless older women in the inner and middle ring communities of Sydney. It was designed to be carried out in two stages. Stage 1 engaged older women in co-designing smaller spaces that would work for them as long-term homes. Stage 2 costed the types of design that the older women developed to provide guidance to organisations considering delivering this form of housing.

The insights that emerged from these women were founded on their reflections of the fear and insecurity that came from not being treated with respect. These experiences greatly influenced how the women viewed having to share their housing with others. Their overwhelming preference was to have their own place and for this to be permanent and safe so they would not face being homeless again and could be supported appropriately as they age without having to move. Over two workshops, a sense of community developed between these diverse women. Their attitudes evolved so that by the end of the project, they articulated very clearly what it meant to share their housing and the pre-conditions for doing this well.

The older women engaged in the project reflected that they were prepared to trade space for having an individual unit of their own and then provided insights into what they would value in a smaller unit, for example a larger outdoor balcony area, designing visual separation between living and sleeping areas and not having bathrooms accessed through bedroom areas.

The women perceived indoor common areas and community rooms to be institutional and rarely used, but valued external common space. They stressed privacy and security of tenure as being most important to them. During the course of the project the older women involved also identified a multiple share option as being one way to allow for support providers or carers to live alongside women who were ageing and in need of a growing level of a support. If they had to share accommodation, the older women consulted wanted to share with more than just one other person. They preferred a model of four people sharing which could be a mix of other older women and support or care givers.

This report uses these insights to develop performance outcomes and design guidelines to inform wider policy discourse.

ORGANIZATION: Sydney Women’s Homeless Alliance
LOCATION: Sydney, Australia