Developing age-friendly living quarters: Challenge and opportunity

Interview with Ursula Kremer-Preiß, Director of the Living and Living Quarters Division, Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe (English: Board of Trustees German Senior Care)

09/29/2016

The objective of an age-friendly living quarters concept is about more than accessible apartments and improved care. Instead, this concept focuses on a holistic approach but this requires the cooperation of many stakeholders. At the REHACARE Congress "We for the Quarter", individual participants have the chance to exchange experiences and information.

Image:Ursula Kremer-Preiß ; Copyright: beta-web/Höpfner

Ursula Kremer-Preiß talked about age-friendly living quarters; ©beta-web/höpfner

REHACARE.de spoke with Ursula Kremer-Preiß about the development of age-friendly living quarters.

Ms. Kremer-Preiß, the focus of this year's REHACARE Congress "We for the Quarter" is on the development of age-friendly living quarters that address the challenges of demographic change. What do age-friendly communities look like? Or to put it another way, what distinguishes "normal" living quarters from age-friendly ones?

Ursula Kremer-Preiß: Age-friendly living quarters specifically address the needs of elderly people. You try to design the residence and living environment so the elderly can remain in their familiar surroundings even if they are limited in their mobility, in need of care or if they suffer from dementia. There are barrier-free apartments, for instance, on-site counseling services, opportunities to meet other people on location or many other assistance services that are brought into the living quarters or are in part offered right on-site.

What challenges do state and municipal authorities face when implementing an age-friendly living quarters concept?

Kremer-Preiß: You need a lot of stakeholders to truly implement all of the individual components and end up with an age-friendly living option. The housing industry, social services, and the local community need to be sensitized and work together. The cooperation between the often very different stakeholders in the living quarters is one of the biggest challenges.

Another aspect is that this is always also about local citizens, the elderly. It's essential that they are also included in the entire process. That means they should be able to voice their requests right from the start. Subsequently, they also need to be supported in participating in the implementation. That is to say, encouraging public participation is the other big challenge.

Why is the development of living quarters such an important topic in age-friendly living?

Kremer-Preiß: The living quarters approach is one that might be able to solve several challenges that we will be confronted with in the future. The challenge we face is that there are more and more elderly people who require assistance. Meanwhile, there are fewer young people to ensure adequate care for the growing number of senior citizens. We need to encourage as many other stakeholders as possible to play a part in this process. And primarily the older generation itself because they have their own ideas and enormous potential that we must utilize. The best way to accomplish this is in social living environments where people have already lived together for many years and built relationships. In this case, it is more likely to encourage personal activities and mutual assistance because in doing so, people also design their own living space. The hope is that cooperation, networking, and mobilization can more likely be achieved in living spaces people identify with.

The topic of your lecture is "If it's called living quarters, it actually needs to be living quarters". What exactly do you mean by that?

Kremer-Preiß: In the past few years, many activities and approaches have been initiated to design living quarters in an age-friendly manner. However, oftentimes only single elements were being implemented. Yet an approach to living quarters is a comprehensive concept. It is actually not a living quarters concept when certain structural principles are not being pursued. Then the question to ask is: what fundamental structural principles need to be maintained to be able to truly say that this represents a living quarter project and not just age-friendly housing? The objective is to holistically align the living spaces with the needs of the elderly, to engage citizens and integrate many local stakeholders. These three aspects need to be observed in a living quarters concept.   

What do you expect from the information exchange at the REHACARE Congress?

Kremer-Preiß: The experience of the Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe has been that this approach is being discussed in many areas and that many things have already been tackled and implemented. Many stakeholders from different sectors have begun to implement living quarters projects. Our hope for this Congress is that these stakeholders learn from each other and compare notes on how they found solutions to challenges. Or to encourage others to also move in this direction.

Why should living quarters concepts be a part of trade fairs like REHACARE?

Kremer-Preiß: I believe this is a very important subject and that in the future, the needs of older or disabled people cannot be met by just improving services in the healthcare and assistance sectors. This requires a holistic approach. And this is what the living quarters concept is all about. Obviously, it is also important to ensure local assistance for people in need of assistance, people with disabilities and dementia patients. But that's not all. They also need age-friendly housing accommodations, assistance to help them socialize and participate in life and a living environment that allows them to be independent. The key is a holistic approach, which is the objective of the living quarters concept.  To this effect, this is also an important subject for REHACARE that pursues the goal of making it possible for people in need of assistance to live an independent and self-determined life in their familiar surroundings.

More information about the REHACARE Congress at: www.rehacare.com

This article was written by Olga Wart
and translated from German by Elena O'Meara.
REHACARE.com