As the issue of the ageing population is set to become critical, we have only a vague idea of the future housing preferences and needs of millions of elderly people. The 4TU Lighthouse project ‘Happy Senior Living’ intends to sound out their housing preferences and experiment with test locations.

The 4TU project’s main aim is to conduct research into housing preferences among elderly people. By asking the elderly how they envisage the ideal home and living environment, the researchers hope to put together a package of key elements. “You should see it as a kind of Lego box with building blocks that designers can use as a basis for their work,” says researcher Dirk van den Heuvel (chair of Architectural Design – Dwelling). “It’s high time for some smart solutions, because current housing stocks are not prepared for what is ahead.”

With their package of key elements, the project partners will propose three pilots. These are expected to involve a highly urbanised environment, a site in a newer urban development and a suburban, post-war residential district.

The latter category is a perfect example of what can no longer be allowed to happen. Many elderly people live in such districts in staircase-access flats without lifts. The physical built environment is no longer a match for changing residential preferences and needs. Traditional care apartments are also now outdated. Van den Heuvel: “The new elderly are determined to remain in control. This also applies to the house in which they live.” According to Van den Heuvel, obvious solutions will involve renovation or new construction with space for shared gardens or forms of construction around courtyards. Solutions of this kind not only meet the need for communal facilities and opportunities to meet, but can also improve safety and security. Safety and security will be a decisive element in the elderly housing of the future.

In more rural areas, Van den Heuvel expects elderly people to opt for residential parks – with or without fencing – and luxury facilities, such as golf courses. In highly urbanised environments, he expects to see additional space for restaurants or reception facilities. 

The Delft faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment is collaborating closely on the ‘Happy Senior Living’ project with colleagues from Eindhoven University of Technology (Ioulia Ossokina and Theo Arentze). The data research is being conducted in Eindhoven. The data collected will be analysed in brainstorm sessions and used to create an arsenal of design options. The building blocks that this produces will later be tested on location. At the end of this year, the project will culminate in a conference at which the results will be presented. It is hoped that the results will then be developed further together with housing associations, municipalities and developers. 

‘Happy Senior Living’ has a project budget of €50,000.

Published: July 2018