I recently met and heard from Carina Dantas who works with and in the social housing and aging industry within Portugal. She spoke at the International Housing Festival about demographic change within social housing. Mrs. Dantas let us know that the aging population is growing dramatically not only in Portugal but all around the world. In a few years, more than 25% of Europe will be 65 and over. The number of births are also decreasing in Europe which makes this problem that more complex. She told the audience at the conference that we must understand that physical environment is a big factor in our health as we age. The World Health Organization believes we should be creating age friendly environments. Housing, transportation, social life’s, healthy living, being independent and engaged are all key factors in age friendly environment.
The speaker talked about technologies and services that can help elderly stay in their homes. She gave an example of Mrs. Isabel who lives in social housing in Portugal. The resident lives on the 4th floor of a building that has no elevator. She had a stroke and could not leave her building without the help of a firemen. Mrs. Isabel did physical therapy and could finally climb the stairs it takes one hour each way. Mrs. Dantas’s organization put a robot into the apartment to help the woman. See the video here-
Robots might play a role in the future and it is fun to speculate where they may help. However; the reality is smart community design that look towards the needs of the growing elderly population is needed. Smart design and future forward solutions are needed. More national investment into this type of design will need to take place.
You can find more examples of best practices in the EU with the link below.