Human sustainability in homes for the elderly

What is good housing for older people? What are the challenges for senior housing, sheltered housing and care homes? What are the latest trends and what should clients consider? Read the interview with Rebecca Saaby Mehlum, architect and head of the Housing for the elderly competence area at FOJAB.

Senior housing for socially active pensioners. Assisted living with access to care or a host. And nursing homes for people with somatic problems and/or dementia. These types of housing have different conditions and expectations - but also points of contact and common approaches for architects and clients.

Rebecca Saaby Mehlum points to some factors that she believes will be particularly important to consider in the future. She mentions, for example, flexibility, optimal flows, co-utilization and integration in the city. And human sustainability, which FOJAB puts extra focus on in every project.

Stimulating the senses
- It's all about creating good environments. In a retirement home, this may involve enabling social interaction through a sofa group in the entrance hall or ensuring that the outdoor area is attractive and easily accessible and provides the conditions for spontaneous meetings. In a nursing home, it can be about adapting the environment to the fact that our senses deteriorate over the years and finding ways to stimulate them," says Rebecca.

But human sustainability is also about creating good working environments for those who work there. Nursing homes have their own special challenges. FOJAB is working to convert several care homes, which are currently adapted for people with somatic conditions, into dementia homes.

- One problem to take into account is that people with dementia often wander off and can't find their way back. We work with frostings that screen them off, so that they are not tempted to go out. Colors and contrast paintings also help to guide the right way.

Optimal flows
In healthcare, there is already widespread thinking about flows, how people move, who they meet, and that healthcare staff and patients should not be overexposed so as not to spread possible infections.

- This has not been the case in nursing homes. There, everyone enters through the same entrance and staff and visitors often have to walk through the entire home in long corridors. This needs to change, says Rebecca Saaby Mehlum. During the corona pandemic, this became particularly clear.

Flexibility and integration
Eight out of ten older people live at home for the rest of their lives. This is the wish of the vast majority of people, and it is also how elderly care is currently structured. It requires housing to function at the end of life, but also before that - long before.

- We need to build housing with a flexible design to accommodate other age groups as demographics change. The hallway and bathroom should be big enough for a walker, but not feel like a home for the disabled. It should be equally suitable for a young family.

For many, it is important to be able to stay in the same area. The fact that housing for the elderly is integrated into the city, close to health centers and local services, creates both security for the individual and strengthens the area socially.

- We would like to see a library or restaurant in the same building where more people than just the residents can go. This creates more meetings between different groups in the community. It also provides great opportunities to jointly use premises such as large kitchens and gymnasiums, which is smart in economic, social and climate terms.

Review of rules
Today, it is often more economically advantageous to stay in a paid-off house than to move to a senior citizen's home. How to reach those who can't afford to move to more suitable accommodation?

- It is possible to design beautiful homes but with cheaper, sustainable materials. Other ways to reduce construction costs include minimizing the number of window sizes, designing in rentable spaces and building flexibly with a long lifespan.

She would also like to see a review of many of the rules surrounding nursing homes in particular. For example, every room must have a kitchenette.

- They are rarely used and are mostly a cost.

With digitalization comes new opportunities. Smart floors can indicate if someone has fallen, or lights that turn on in the bathroom when you get out of bed. Assistive devices that strengthen both security and independence.


Facts and figures

Care homes. Assisted care needs. Private room.
sheltered housing. May be subject to assistance. Own apartment. Access to care/security host.
Senior housing. Housing for 65+. Often condominiums.


Would you like to know more? Feel free to contact

Rebecca Saaby Mehlum, tel +46 706 81 58 30