Nordic housing and ageing in place

How long can older people stay put in their homes? The answer rests on two things: home design and easy access to support services. Retaining a sense of connection to community is another important element which is why the quest to stay put is so strong. And of course, staying put also reduces the stress on the welfare budget. But are there alternative models of housing that can support older people in their later years? Three Nordic housing researchers found some.

A town nestling on the edge of a fjord with houses reaching up the hill. Nordic housing.

Older people aren’t all the same. One thing they do share in common – they want to maintain their autonomy and preferences.

Nordic countries have a reputation for providing strong social and welfare supports for their citizens. But population ageing is stretching the limits of these policies. The researchers reviewed the current situation in Nordic countries to identify issues and potential solutions. Using case studies they show how older people can live independently and inter-dependently.

The application of universal design across Nordic housing is enabling people to stay home longer. However, the case studies showed that loneliness is a growing challenge. Consequently, defining an age-friendly environment is much more than a step-free entry.

The challenge is to find solutions that promote activity, participation and a feeling of safety. Consequently, we need a joined up approach to housing and neighbourhood design. That is, apply universal design to everything. Then it will be good for everyone.

The way housing and urban environments are designed influences opportunities for informal social contact. Good examples are usually in designated specific older age communities. So the knowledge is there, it’s just assumed it’s only needed for older people.

Older people aren’t all the same

Too often it’s assumed that older people all need the same things. They don’t – they are as diverse as the general population. They have different lifestyles and want different housing choices. The one thing they share in common is wanting to maintain autonomy and preferences, especially as they become more frail.

The title of the article is Nordic approaches to housing and ageing – Current concepts and future needs. The article is relatively easy to read with case studies that show a variety of solutions, some of which are communal. The solutions enable older people to continue being part of their neighbourhood in different ways.

From the abstract

The Nordic countries have a reputation for having both universal welfare systems and high housing standards. However, the demographic development and ageing in place policies bring challenges to the present housing and care services for the older population. During the last decades, there has been a significant decrease in the coverage of care for older people. This is related to the increase of older people as well as challenges related to the availability of the workforce and raising care costs.

The objective of the comparative descriptive analyses is to point out the challenges and future possibilities for housing. This is illustrated by some new cases all of them showing solutions that enable older people to continue being a part of city life in their own neighbourhoods. They also show a variety of solutions that at the same time gives possibilities to live independently and live interdependent in different kind of co-housing and neighbourhoods.

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