There is no such thing as ‘the elderly’. Older people are a heterogeneous group. The ideal home for the elderly therefore does not exist. Yet the group has many universal housing needs. In this context, we discuss their wishes with regard to the home and the living situation and environment.
This article is based on the wishes of seniors in the Netherlands. These findings might not apply to elderly elsewhere.
Housing wishes of the elderly – the home
As people get older, the desire for a rental home increases. Of the 75-year-olds, the vast majority of the elderly want a home, made specifically for the elderly in the rental sector. The desire to buy a house decreases with age. However, this ratio is strongly influenced by the income of the respondents. The lower the income, the greater the desire for a rental property. A majority of homeowners also prefer to move to a rental home, although this willingness is decreasing. If this group wants to relocate because of (approaching) reliance on help, they can, for example, increasingly find housing care arrangements in the owner-occupied sector. Combined with aging, this trend will ensure that a larger proportion of older people will (continue to) live in the owner-occupied sector.
Housing wishes of the elderly – housing costs
The majority of older people who prefer a rental home indicate they prefer a home with a rent lower than € 650 a month. Although many elderly people prefer a cheap home (up to around € 500 a month), there is still a lot of demand in the higher price categories. For example, 30% of future tenants want to move into a more expensive home. There is virtually no interest in the highest rental segment (above € 1,000 a month). In the owner-occupied sector, the wish is concentrated around € 150,000 to € 250,000, and a third of the elderly indicate that they want a more expensive home. In general, when people want to move, 70% want to pay about the same amount as before. Of the others, 10% want to pay more and 20% want to pay less. Approximately 30% of seniors are willing to accept an increase in monthly costs to € 100 when they move.
Housing wishes of the elderly – type of home
In general, the elderly prefer a ground-bound dwelling or zero-step dwelling, such as apartments with a lift. If an older person has a preference for an apartment, the ground floor and the first floor of the apartment building are the most sought after. In this preference for living on the ground floor, the presence of a garden plays an important role. As people their age increases, the demand for single-family homes decreases and the demand for homes specifically built for the elderly increases. The turning point is in the age category 65-74 years. Around 60% of people have no specific preference for a new construction or an existing home. Of the seniors who do have a preference, the majority prefer a newly built home.
Most seniors want a spacious home, which is not too big either. Only about 5% say they want a one-bedroom home. The vast majority of older people want to move to a home with (more than) two bedrooms. Many elderly indicate that they want a living space between 80 and 120 m2. However, the desire for more rooms and a bigger living space decreases with age. In addition, the house must let in a lot of sunlight and have a large balcony (> 12m2; or possibly a maintenance-free garden) on the south. A separate kitchen is of significantly less importance. A large bathroom and toilet, on the other hand, is a wish, just like an extra room for an office. In general, elderly people attach great importance to living comfort. This includes heating and protection against burglary.
Housing wishes of the elderly – living situation and environment
55 to 64-year-olds in particular pay attention to the housing characteristics, while the over-65s value the environment more, in which especially peace and quiet, the proximity of nature and green areas are desired. Extras here are high-quality location qualities such as living close to a river or a communal inner garden. View is also an important point. Because some elderly people spend a large part of the day at home, they want a view that provides some excitement.
The most important environmental qualities for seniors are (the proximity of) services and social contacts. The need for facilities mainly focuses on facilities that older people regularly use, such as shops, basic health care facilities, public transport, and a bank and / or ATM. That is why they prefer to live within walking distance of the city or village center. The road to these facilities must also be easily accessible, with wide sidewalks, sufficient parking facilities and street lighting. These wishes also apply to elderly people who live in the countryside, so that they often move to a larger village or city.
For a large proportion of seniors, urban facilities (theaters, restaurants, cafes) are less important. The elderly place particular value on services aimed at convenience, (maintenance of) the home and care. The interest in services in the latter category focuses not only on actual care, but also on personal alarms, temporary care, and meal and taxi services. Finally, older people also want an overview of which facilities can be requested where.
Housing wishes of the elderly – social contacts
Older people want to live close to their social contacts. More than three-quarters of seniors that want to move, would like to continue living in their own environment. Most elderly indicate that they would like to live in the middle of society, with mixed neighborhoods (with young people and sufficient peers) being preferred. People over 75 in particular attach importance to the presence of other elderly people and care facilities. This clearly distinguishes them from 55 to 64-year-olds. Almost nobody wants to live in a very bustling neighborhood with many families.
Elderly prefer if there are activities organized in the nearby area, such as in a residential complex. However, the group of attendees should not become too large, with a maximum of 25 people, so that a close relationship can arise. The greater importance that is attached to safety is what sets the elderly apart from other groups. For example, most seniors indicate that they often lock their doors and are hesitant to go out at night because of loitering youths. They consider supervision of the public space important. Contact with neighbors and social control are important to feel safe.
Housing wishes of the elderly – home modifications and automation
The majority of elderly people believe that home services and home adjustments, including home automation, can assist them to stay in their own home. This includes fire detection, personnel alarms, key solutions, automatic lighting, remote care, two-way video and audio connections and information services. These functionalities not only provide real improvements, but also increases the sense of security. Especially older people with a pro-active attitude, for whom self-reliance is important, and seniors that are thinking about care services or that experience a sense of powerlessness, tend to consider (future) use of home automation most often.
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