A plan to mix seniors with university students in a $45 million high-rise development in Tauranga's downtown has been floated by architect Mark Wassung.
He wants to give retired people the housing option of rubbing shoulders with students in a tower block built on the council-owned site in Durham St, opposite Baycourt.
''We are going to have a quadrupling of seniors over the next 20 years. Seniors don't always want to live in retirement homes - we need to change our approach.''
The registered architect who ran for a seat on the council last year has announced his latest vision for the future, Tauranga Together. It included giving the elderly an alternative to retirement villages that clustered seniors together.
Mr Wassung was struck by how the largest demographic from the 49,000 people that attended the Paradox exhibition were in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
''That means retirees were coming in their droves to support an exhibition of street art.''
He said some seniors felt disengaged from the community, so why not bring them into the city in a 200-unit development that brought students and retirees together. The students studying at the nearby campus now under development would rent 30sq m units while seniors lived in 80 to 100sq m apartments.
There could be different ownership options, like a co-operative rent-to-own model. ''A lot of singles can't get into the housing market.'''
Mr Wassung has searched the web to see if anyone else was mixing retirees with young people and found a nursing home in the Netherlands that allowed students to live rent-free alongside elderly residents as part of a project to ward off the negative effects of ageing.
The students got a small apartment in the Humanitas retirement home in exchange for spending at least 30 hours a month being a ''good neighbour''. Students joined their neighbours in activities like watching sport, celebrating birthdays or offering company when seniors fell ill.
International studies were finding more social isolation and loneliness as people lived longer. The Humanitas project showed how students brought the outside world in by providing warmth and contact for elderly, with the only rule that students must not be a nuisance.
Similar inter-generational programmes existed in the French and American cities of Lyon and Cleveland.
Mr Wassung took the concept to Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless who responded to the Bay of Plenty Times that the site opposite Baycourt was earmarked for an internationally-branded hotel and he did not want to throw that out.
However, if someone came along with a fully-funded project for the site then the council would look at it. ''I embrace Mark's innovative thinking. We have got to have people coming up with ideas but translating ideas into action is not easy.''
Mr Brownless said he was not so sure that mixing university students with the elderly would work, even though people were young for much longer these days. ''People in their 60s and 70s still regard themselves as young and they are acting younger. Things have changed.''
University students were noted for noisy parties and that could conflict with elderly neighbours, he said.
Mr Wassung said the essence of Tauranga Together was good and sustainable growth by design. The city should become socially and economically inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
He proposed to set up an urban design panel similar to Hamilton's panel. It would set ambitious design standards, review designs and investigate the challenges facing Tauranga's built environment.
The CBD was going through a renaissance and the design panel would ensure that the city centre did not end up looking like a fruit salad, he said.
Mr Wassung also proposed to launch a new social enterprise called ''Public Practice'' to put designers and planners into the Tauranga City and Western Bay District councils for a minimum of one year.
Tauranga Together was envisaged as a partnership between the public and private sector involving a long-term approach to investment. It fed into his vision for the future of transportation in the city, Tauranga Connect.
Bringing London's ''twodio'' collective co-living concept into Tauranga
- 550-room halls of residence style communal homes
- For cash-strapped millennials
- A private room with shared kitchen facilities
- Rent includes services and shared attractions like spa and cinema
- Alternative to flat sharing for graduates
Source: Mark Wassung