International
Federation for
Housing and
Planning

Challenging senior housing options in Central and Eastern Europe

There are millions of seniors who do not want or need this level of care but are seeking housing alternatives that better fit their needs.

Central and Eastern Europe have aging populations as does much of the world. While much attention is placed on medical, social, welfare and employment of seniors, very little attention is paid to where and how seniors will live, except for the oldest old seniors in need of 24/7 care. There are millions of seniors who do not want or need this level of care but are seeking housing alternatives that better fit their needs. In western countries there are more housing choices for seniors. These housing options include age restricted housing, independent living, assisted living, cohousing opportunities as well as informal arrangements such as senior roommate or housemate situations. None of these options are available in this region. However, the combination of real estate and cultural changes are making these options more attractive from a social, economic and real estate development perspective.

 

In Poland, seniors want to be independent as long as possible. With globalization adult children are not necessarily nearby anymore. They may not have the money, time or space to care for a parent. The family as primary care giver is changing.  Seniors do not want to be a burden to their children nor do they all want to live with their children. Some Poles never had children. What happens to these seniors as they age?

 

Aside from changing cultural mores, there are real estate issues driving the growing demand for more housing choice. Poland and Eastern Europe have an abundance of socialist style housing. This housing was constructed through the 1980’s and was developed based on large-scale standardization, a limited number of available housing types, and there was a poor quality of construction. This resulted in depressing rows of blocks of flats made out of concrete panels.  The inhabitants of these socialist projects had at the time, no other choice. 

 

Today these concrete monoliths live on, but many have fallen into various states of disrepair. Many urban and suburban seniors still reside in these units. Should they need even the minimum of care, their housing choices are to stay where they are even if no longer matches their housing needs; move in with their children; go to a care home which they do not yet need or want, may not be able to afford (private pay) or has long wait lists (public care homes).

 

While many seniors do want to age in place, it is not always possible due to build physical environmental issues and architectural issues with not only socialist housing, but also with older homes. What do these seniors do? 

 

By creating more diverse housing options for seniors one is stimulating the economy by creating short term (construction) and long term employment (management and maintenance), and creating a safer, more secure, more modern (energy efficient) and more suitable living environment for seniors.  

 

Aside from changing cultural mores, there are real estate issues driving the growing demand for more housing choice. Poland and Eastern Europe have an abundance of socialist style housing. This housing was constructed through the 1980’s and was developed based on large-scale standardization, a limited number of available housing types, and there was a poor quality of construction. This resulted in depressing rows of blocks of flats made out of concrete panels. The inhabitants of these socialist projects had at the time, no other choice. 

 

Today these concrete monoliths live on, but many have fallen into various states of disrepair. Many urban and suburban seniors still reside in these units. Should they need even the minimum of care, their housing choices are to stay where they are even if no longer matches their housing needs; move in with their children; go to a care home which they do not yet need or want, may not be able to afford (private pay) or has long wait lists (public care homes).

 

While many seniors do want to age in place, it is not always possible due to build physical environmental issues and architectural issues with not only socialist housing, but also with older homes. What do these seniors do? 

 

By creating more diverse housing options for seniors one is stimulating the economy by creating short term (construction) and long term employment (management and maintenance), and creating a safer, more secure, more modern (energy efficient) and more suitable living environment for  seniors.  Seniors are able to live on their own longer, have more disposable income and be more empowered. This will keep the seniors out of the social and welfare programs that are already showing signs of strain. 

 

Author

Greta E. Garniss, Housing Market Analyst, Senior Housing Market Researcher, Pittsburgh, PA