Cities and regions building homes for life

Tue 6, October 2020
09:30 - 11:00 CET

With the implementation of "stay at home" measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, people soon realised that their homes were to become their immediate surroundings for the next several months. Their homes became their office, leisure place, a day-care centre for children, as well as a place to receive health and social care. All of these scenarios were manageable for some of us, for others however, their daily routine was threatened due to the condition of their homes. Indeed, according to the Centre for Ageing Better, “4.3 million homes in England are classified as non-decent homes”. According to the World Health Organization, the quality of housing has major implications for people’s health; nonetheless, 80% of our housing stock is not suitable for independent living, efforts need to focus on adapting the existing housing stock, as new construction only represents about 1% of the total housing stock” according to Housing Europe. If not adapted, housing can exacerbate existing chronic health conditions, and also jeopardise the wellbeing of its inhabitants.

Homes4Life partners promote "a society where your house is truly your home. A supportive, enabling environment that helps you realise your full personal and social potential. A society where such houses are within reach for Europeans of all ages, regardless of income, gender, race or ethnic background, sexual orientation, health status, or disability".

The "Cities and regions building homes for life" workshop presents the context which led to the development of the new Homes4Life European Certification Scheme for Ageing in Place, a useful tool to foster the “homes for all life” approach from the housing policies and the collaboration between the different key stakeholders (e.g. architects, construction sector, decision makers, tenants, and social housing organisations). The workshop will also be the opportunity to listen to participants of the pilot project currently engaged in the testing of the Certification Scheme.

Olatz Nicolas Buxens, Researcher, Tecnalia, Spain.
Nhu Tram, Senior Project Officer, AGE Platform Europe, Belgium.
Jan Cieśla, Architect, Mimowieku, Poland.
Irina Kalderon, Policy Officer, European Commission, Luxembourg.
Sergio Murillo Corzo, Minister of Social Action, Government of Biscay, Spain.
Ciaran O'Brien, Director, OBFA Architects, Ireland.
Silvia Urra Uriarte, Researcher, TECNALIA, Spain.
Empowering citizens
AGE Platform Europe, Tecnalia Research & Innovation
English (EN)

Session summary

AGE Platform Europe organised a workshop on 6 October during the European Week of Cities and Regions spread over three weeks. The workshop, co-organised with Tecnalia this year, addressed age-friendly housing. Different actors were invited to talk about funding schemes, tools or local initiatives supporting inclusive housing.

Irina Kalderon Libal, policy officer at DG CNECT from the eHealth, Wellbeing and Ageing unit, focused her presentation on existing and future European Commission policies and actions supporting active and healthy ageing, including age-friendly environments.

Silvia Urra Uriarte, architect and specialist in building, represented the Homes4Life project. She explained the importance of investing in housing for all ages and how quality housing has a tremendous influence on our health. Therefore, the Homes4Life project developed a European Certification Scheme that will allow all actors involved to better understand what should be taken into account when developing an age-friendly home. The Certification Scheme is divided into 5 different categories considered crucial for age-friendly housing: personal, social, economics, physical and outdoor access.

The three following speakers presented their local initiatives and are taking part in the testing of the Homes4Life Certification Scheme:

-          Dr Jan P. Cieśla is the co-author of the Mimo Wieku Initiative (At home despite the Age). Jan is a consulting architect specialising in safe, healthy and sustainably built environments and an expert in building certifications. He presented the first model apartment in Poland for active ageing and ageing in place. The apartment is accessible to provide training to architects, for example, when addressing the issue of housing for all ages. Jan P. Cieśla promotes universal design, “What is good for older people is good for all ages or for people with reduced mobility.”

-          Ciaran O'Brien from OBFA Architects presented the housing with supports project in Inchicore, Dublin. The project examines the potential to deliver a model of managed housing that will support older persons in life and at the end of life. This is being explored against a backdrop of a housing crisis in Ireland and the dichotomy of older individuals and couples in homes that no longer meet their needs. The project would offer 52 residential apartments, respecting and interlinking private, public and semi-public spaces. As Ciaran said, “it takes a village to provide a stimulating environment for older people”.  

-          Sergio Murillo Corzo, Minister of Social Action in the Government of Biscay, presented the Etxegoki initiative, the leading site to validate a new model of supported housing for people with a physical disability. The building is owned by the Bizkaia government but is managed by FEKOOR, the Physical Disability Associactions Federation in Biscay. The public authority of Bizkaia implemented a change in their policy approach; they now provide support to change the environment. The case of Etxegoki proved to be successful in changing the community where the building is established. Shops and medical centres in the area had to adapt to enable the residents to also access these services.  Changing the law is not enough, said Sergio Murillo, changing the mind sets, culture and insight of a community proves to be much more successful.




Take away message

Ageing at home is what most people want to do and what decision-makers are encouraging. However, we observe that the current housing stock is often not adapted to the evolving needs of the population. Homes4Life project wants to provide a European Certification Scheme for age-friendly housing that supports all stakeholders involved to better address the ageing at home issue. Besides the architectural features of the building, the certification considers other crucial aspects: personal, social, economics, physical and outdoor access.



It takes a village to provide a stimulating environment for older people.

Changing the law is not enough, changing the mind sets, culture and insight of a community proves to be much more successful.

What is good for older people is good for all ages or for people with reduced mobility.