Aging with dignity : elderly housing in an urban setting
The living situation of the older generation is a matter of increasing social concern. Demographic changes are leading to larger proportions of elderly people in the populations of the developed world. Tied into this evolution and even more important are the processes of social change - in particular the loosening of traditional family bonds - which make the living situation of older people extremely precarious once they begin to become frail.One aspect of the living situation of older people, namely their housing situation, or more specifically the question of housing and care, has long been neglected or mainly answered with uniform solutions of institutionalized housing for the elderly. Today, these cannot be seen as the only answer to the diverse needs of elderly people, especially since the housing situation has a very strong influence in determining their degree of self-sufficiency. The increased need for housing suited to the needs of elderly people is the impetus for additional investigation, improvement of present conditions, and studies of future developments. The resulting knowledge and impact on the built environment will be very important to academia and the future education of all environmental design professionals as well as society in general.The purpose of this investigation is to illustrate the significance and relationship of socialand spatial requirements within the concept of living and care, because only the simultaneous addressing of these conditions allows for 'aging with dignity'. The existing demographic situation as well as the inadequate housing situation for the elderly makes it important to investigate the provision of health care, social services, and everyday necessities along with a well-designed architectural and urban development framework.This paper consists of three main parts. The first two parts focus on the research of theoretical and practical design aspects as they pertain to current thinking in elderly care and assisted living. This is accomplished through an investigation of published international examples. In addition, valuable information about the housing needs and desires of elderly people was gathered by exploring four built examples in the United States and Germany, thus helping to identify the framework of the architectural exploration.The third part documents the development and process of both an operational and design concept for elderly housing in a selected urban community. The site is located in Potsdam, Germany, within an existing urban block of the old city core. The architectural design attempts to express the idea of 'aging in dignity' and includes thoughts about the interrelation of new and existing residential units as well as their impact on the context.The aim of the study is to ascertain information about the effects of diverse, networked and, in part, innovative facilities and services on the independent living capabilities of the elderly, and the control over one's living environment. Promoting independent living, this study should help to determine the extent to which these services could be provided.