Within the European Innovation Partnership on Active & Healthy Ageing, partners across Europe are sharing the outcomes of their housing pilots and projects, disseminating best practices, and scaling up international collaboration in the field.
Connected homes, communities, and cities are essential to creating Age-friendly environments; and adapting housing is a first step in a ‘prevention approach’ that ensures the health and wellbeing of older people in their home. In Europe, communities are looking at housing solutions which safeguard the needs of older adults and also provide housing and services in a new way.
In the region of Aquitaine, France, a local initiative has created a fund to help finance home modifications for older people on lower incomes. In partnership with a housing organization, pension funds, and insurance companies, the initiative renovates existing housing to the meet the needs of older residents, at an average cost of 7,000 euros (9,100 dollars). Modifications may include a suspended sink, replacing a bath with a retractable shower seat, and grab bars. In addition, in the city of Boé in that region, they are adapting residential parks for ease of mobility and access to urban transport systems.
In Dresden, Germany a project with housing cooperatives, research institutes, and companies has adapted housing units to the changing needs of their aging residents. The project focuses on technical support systems which compensate for cognitive impairment, hearing and sight limitations, and physical limitations due to chronic diseases, diabetes, and stroke, all while ensuring the interoperability of those technical systems. Training courses have been provided on the use of the services and tenants were involved in both the design and implementation of the project.
In Lyon, France,, the regional public housing organization has rolled out the use of computer tablets to enhance older people’s lives at home, and tailored the services of the tablet to older people’s needs. These ‘connected flats’ aim to prevent isolation by increasing the social interaction of users, and the services accessed via the tablet include food, entertainment, health and wellbeing.
A transnational project in Central Europe, HELPS, is looking at a comprehensive approach to housing and home care which includes: in Slovenia, setting up a citizen’s advice bureau for older people on housing solutions and services; in Leipzig, a centre where older people can test home solutions; and, in Italy, a co-housing pilot of older people involving community and integrated home care solutions. ‘Living labs’, such as Madrid’s Smart house Living Lab, are also widespread in Europe. They focus on the testing and development of new home technologies for independent living.
In a partnership with businesses, civil society, and public authorities in Rotterdam, Netherlands, sixteen pilot districts are being tested in a program of assisted living areas with facilities and services specifically designed to meet the needs of disabled and older citizens. They are building a community dashboard for monitoring the effectiveness of interventions in infrastructural, social and healthcare provisions in the city, creating a geographic information system platform for local government, to support the policy decisions that will ultimately influence the age at which people move to residential care homes in that area.
Along with community-based housing solutions, a variety of residential solutions and partnerships are required to meet the diverse housing needs of older people. The partners must include older people, relatives, nonprofit groups, and other community stakeholders. A participatory, bottom-up approach, where older people are involved in the process of designing new devices according to their needs and expectations, is cost efficient and leads, not only to the creation of more functional tools but also new relationships among older people living in the same community. The housing adaptations and services allow a more independent and active life at home, improve communication between older people and their circle of support, and reinforce social inclusion and improve the efficiency of services.
Europe represents a huge market to equip individual apartments and collective residences, which will allow older people better access to services. Ultimately, innovation in housing can improve the quality of life for older people and potentially delays or avoids a move to a care institution.
about the author
As Head of the Innovation for Health and Consumers Unit she is leading the team responsible of developing strategies for Innovation for Health and Consumers reporting directly to the Director General of Health and Consumers.
Her team is responsible to develop and run the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.
Her team is also responsible for Economic Analysis and Impact Assessment for the legislative initiatives in Health, Consumers and Food Safety policies.
Since 1993 she works as an official in the European Commission in different positions.
She holds a scientific background and she studied also Political Sciences.