Senior Living Europe

Making connections – Seeking out new models for senior living in Europe

December 21st, 2017 Posted by All, Senior Living

This January, Urban Edge Architecture is undertaking a study tour of several care homes and senior living accommodation schemes in the Netherlands with students from the University of Lincoln.

Our trip to the Netherlands, follows a visit made to three care homes in Denmark in September last year where I was particularly struck by the example of Bomi-Parken care home, part of the Gyldenrisparken residential complex in Copenhagen. At Bomi-Parken there are no fences or gates and the care home is physically linked with the housing and schools that surround it, as well as being near to a local neighbourhood shopping centre. The elderly can interact with families and children going about their daily activities and greatly helps to combat loneliness and keep minds active.

The example of Bomi-Parken and its physical connections to the surrounding community couldn’t be in starker contrast to many of the senior living and care home facilities we see in the UK, which often isolate older people from their local communities. Yet older people are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities – and in doing so they also represent a new strand of consumer – the ‘silver pound’ – which is forecast to grow by 81 percent by 2030.

At Urban Edge Architecture we believe that senior living needs to be provided within our towns and cities and we are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. We are therefore always keen to further our knowledge of these types of development and plan to visit the four schemes in the Netherlands to not only get a better understanding of the advantages of connecting care homes and senior living with the wider community, but also to consider the challenges and how these could be overcome.

There are four schemes that we are looking to visit – most famous of which is Wozoco, an apartment complex for elderly people in the centre of Amsterdam. Renowned for its inventive architectural approach – several of its 100 units are cantilevered on the building’s North façade – our interest lies in its urban location and connection to the surrounding amenities. Whilst in Amsterdam, we’ll also be taking a look at Silodam, a mixed development of 157 houses, offices, work and commercial spaces that is fast becoming an exemplar of multigenerational living.

In the riverside town of Deventer we will pay a visit to the Residential and Care Centre Humanitas, a long-term care facility that also doubles as a student dorm. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in the centre’s vacant rooms free of charge. It’s an excellent example of intergenerational living and we’re looking forward to meeting with residents, students and management to discuss the benefits of multigenerational integration. For our students, they will not only get to see first hand how a mixed-use and multigenerational project works, but they will also need to be in fine voice as ‘payment’ for our visit will see them entertaining residents by singing at the dinner table!

If time allows, we also hope to stop off at the Hogeweyk Dementia Village in Weesp. This small village on the edge of Amsterdam has 23 apartments and a care home for people with dementia, but unlike many traditional dementia-care homes, residents at Hogeweyk are encouraged to be active – they manage their own households, shop at the local Hogeweyk supermarket and enjoy the other facilities the village has to offer such as a hairdresser, restaurant bar and theatre.

You’ll have noticed a common theme here: care homes and senior living schemes which are physically connected with the wider community – that’s our interest and it’s a model we feel needs to be further encouraged in the UK.

In the UK, the current focus appears to be on senior living at the high end of the market – luxurious care villages, often located in the South East, which are based on New Zealand and Australian models. Yet the issue of an ageing population affects all parts of the country, from North to South, and across a variety of social strata. It is our view that we should be looking into mid-market models based on the Scandinavian and Dutch approaches that allow for multigenerational integration and connect with the wider community through communal services.

Following our visit, we will publish some of our thoughts and impressions here. We’ll also let you know how the students got on singing for their supper! Stay tuned…

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director