Giovanna Borasi & Daniel Schwartz
Where We Grow Older
Where will you live once you grow older? Will your city take care of you?
How to design for the elderly, and for those who care for them? The short documentary (2023) looks at how the growing aging population is reshaping architectural and social constructs and questions the role urban design and politics play in facing these challenges. The film investigates two models of how care and housing can be reconceived in light of prolonged lives and that push traditional ways of geriatric care: public housing as part
of municipal policies and infrastructure — where the city is the caretaker —, and the creation of a new architectural model that offers care in a single building managed by private entities not only to the elderly but also to their caretakers —where the building becomes the city.
The film takes us to the housing project Ali Bei (2012-2020) in the centre of Barcelona, conceived as part of the social housing program for Viviendas Dotacionales by the Municipal Institute of Housing and Renovation (Institut de l’Habitage i Rehabilitació IMHAB), to position the elderly as active community members. It is jointly administered by the city and elected cooperatives and community members. The project was designed by Paul Vidal Architecte, Arquitectura Produccions, and Vivas Arquitectos, to enable elderly citizens to continue living in their central neighbourhoods, in walkable proximity with all services and embedded in city life, in a lifestyle that has proven to expand life expectancy and general health.
The second project is Carehaus in Baltimore (2020-ongoing), the first intergenerational care-based co-housing project in the United States. It was developed by Rafi Segal Architecture and Urbanism, together with the activist and artist Marisa Morán Jahn and the developer Ernst Valery. This collective initiative currently under construction uses space as a catalyst for
the development of care-based communities, by offering independent living units for disabled and older adults, and for their caregivers and caregivers’ families, all clustered around shared spaces and amenities. Economic and social justice issues around domestic labour, along with the many new problems posed to an aging population and the communities that support them, are tackled together in one building, as one spatial and community form.
While the cities and the political and economic contexts differ, the two projects present the same desire to address demographic aging in a spatial and unsegregated way. They propose two very distinct answers to the same question. In Barcelona we find a government-run program that uses the urban scale as the solution. Ali Bei’s inhabitants live independently but count on the community of the building itself, the caretaker and all the services around in neighbourhood. The elderly contributes to a collective urban life. The project of Carehaus in Baltimore is a developer-led private initiative, that seeks societal equity and justice. It was designed to take care of the elderly and to tackle the crisis around caregivers’ labour, work and life conditions. Through interviews with experts, seniors, residents, caregivers and activists, the film examines what dignified housing entails, revealing the cultural, economic and political realities underlying the issue of geriatric care.
Where We Grow Older concludes a three-part film series and investigation, conceived by Giovanna Borasi, directed by Daniel Schwartz, and initiated by the CCA in 2019, that looks at groups generally marginalized or ignored in the planning of domestic and urban spaces.
It examines desires or needs for new forms of living as calls for architects and designers to devise spatial arrangements and strategies supporting these.
Through the lens of architectural projects, each episode looks at the global scope as well as the local specificities of challenges to urban society and its spatial configuration, created by changes in lifestyles, economic pressures and demographics.
While the first film What It Takes to Make a Home (2019) addressed homelessness and has been presented as part of the 58th Session of the Commission for Social Development at the United Nations headquarters in New York City in February 2020, the second film When We Live Alone (2020) examines the ways in which people live alone.