Approaches to Age-friendly Housing

Numerous models of “age-friendly housing” are emerging around the world, including sharing housing, retrofitting homes, building new structures, supporting people to live at home, technology-enabled approaches, and policy incentives such as zoning. There is certainly not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but we can all learn from these wonderful examples. Grantmakers in Aging has compiled a number of these approaches in a recent report.

In Porto, Portugal, and The Netherlands, students live in homes of older adults or in retirement homes, rent-free. They provide important companionship and a valuable intergenerational connection. In the U.S., Silvernest has a technology platform to match older adults and others who wish to share a home. In Barcelona, non-structural repairs are made to the homes of older adults to enhance safety, energy efficiency, and introduce assistive technologies. 80% of the over 10,000 people served by these modifications say that it has improved the quality of their lives.

The CAPABLE program is expanding in the U.S., addressing the needs of low-income adults related to mobility and aging in place by providing handyman services to improve safety and accessibility, as well as nursing and occupational therapy. Patients set their own functional goals, like safely bathing and getting upstairs, and they subsequently receive home renovations, like installing handrails. Research has shown that the program halved difficulties in function, reduced symptoms of depression, and improved motivation. Participants report 30% fewer difficulties with functional activities.

In Singapore, the government has built an apartment complex with “green features” such as rooftop community gardens, co-located services, and subsidized accessible apartments. Vietnam relies on community volunteers to do home visiting, housekeeping, and personal care. And Japan’s convenience stores offer well-regarded food options, onsite pharmacy services, and health services. “Drivers, who live in the neighborhoods where they work and know their customers, provide a valuable combination of food delivery and friendly visiting.”

Intergenerational housing is another housing option that allows older adults to combat loneliness. Intergenerational housing comprises of young and older residents, addressing housing issues to benefit seniors and youth. Intergenerational housing allows for interconnectedness with various age groups and allows young adults to care for older adults.

In order to incorporate age-friendly housing programs like intergenerational housing, incentives must be put in place. In Japan, the government Urban Renaissance Agency incentivizes multigenerational neighborhoods. A 20%, 5-year rent discount is given to families if they raise their kids near their grandparents. Another example of incentivizing an age-friendly model is the reduced rate or interest-free intergenerational family loans in Belgium. The loans are provided to families who want to make their home large enough to house 3 generations.

Another approach to promoting age-friendly housing is the incorporation of monitoring technology to help people age in the community. Some examples include in-home sensors to lower risk of falling, a technology designed for people with cognitive decline, and the use of data to recognize changes in behavior.

There are many more examples worthy of replication or adaptation. As the paper concludes, “these high-impact approaches make a difference in aging but also in social justice, community development, urban planning, education, children and youth, environment, and health care.”