Ensuring the elderly can remain living independently for as long as possible will be crucial in helping deal with the challenges presented by an aging population, according to both real estate and care experts.

While the shortage of homes for youngsters starting out on the housing ladder is a current political priority, there is an equally pressing problem at the other end of the spectrum which will require concerted action in the coming years, the experts say.

Hans Adriani, who chairs a government-backed taskforce on housing and care, told a recent conference organized by Holland Metropole partner Bouwinvest that 110,000 new level floored homes will be needed in the coming years, as well as 50,000 sheltered housing units and 50,000 residential care beds.

Providing this will require close cooperation between local authorities, investors and care institutions, he said. In 2020, just one in three local authority areas had analysed how to deal with the shortage of housing for the elderly, but now ‘it is a theme in every municipality.’

While developing more senior housing has a role to play, there are other challenges ahead, such as the shortage of care workers. According to elderly care umbrella group Actiz, the demand for specialist care for the elderly will only increase, while the number of workers will remain relatively constant. This too means efforts need to be made to ensure the elderly can remain living independently as long as possible, and that their wishes are centre stage.

‘The future of elderly care is at home, and some 90% of the over 75s live independently,’ Actiz chairwoman Anneke Westerlaken told the Financieele Dagblad in an interview last month. ‘We cannot continue to provide care as we do now… and this development is going to place enormous strain on patients, care providers and patients’ social networks.’

Westerlaken says the care sector cannot solve the problem on its own. ‘Society in general must be kinder to the elderly, and they too have a role to play, by maintaining their own networks as they grow older.’

An example of how the real estate industry can help in this community-based approach is the LIFE complex in Amsterdam’s western docklands, which is part of the Bouwinvest healthcare portfolio. LIFE, developed by Holland Metropole partner VORM, is a multi-use complex for the over 50s, combining age-adaptive housing units at all price levels, plus community areas, a restaurant and a special section for people with dementia. The aim, says Erwin Drenth, director Dutch Healthcare Investments at Bouwinvest, is to create an inclusive building where everyone feels comfortable growing old.