A challenge across the board

The interplay of ongoing demographic change and an insufficient supply of adequate forms of care and housing for older people represents one of the central social challenges of the coming years. In order to be able to react in a targeted and sustainable manner, it is indispensable to deal with regional needs and supply situations. In this context, the Moses Mendelssohn Institute (MMI) has been advising the GBI for many years.

According to the forecast of the Federal Statistical Office, around 23 million people in Germany will be older than 65 in 2050. Currently, there are around 18 million people. This means that the demand for and need for housing suitable for the elderly will increase significantly in the coming years.

Although the aging process can be observed throughout Germany, regional differences can be identified. This becomes clear when looking at the demographic development according to spatial categories. For example, an above-average increase in the population aged 65 and over can be observed in the peripheral - i.e. markedly rural - areas (+12.5% since 2011) as well as in densely populated areas (+11.6%) (Germany +10%). The latter spatial category is of particular relevance with regard to the creation of needs-based housing for older people. More than half of all senior citizens in Germany live in densely populated areas. These include not only the classic "Urban belt" areas around large cities, but also the more urbanized districts away from the major urban centers.

In addition to a increase in the number of older people, processes of social change can also be observed that will have an impact on the future supply of housing. In the context of increasing individualization and differentiation of lifestyles, seniors today strive to live as long as possible in a self-determined and independent manner, ideally in their own homes. However, the living space currently used meets the special needs of the elderly only in very few cases. In many cases, there are structural barriers, the living space used is too large, or the residential location is characterized by monofunctionality and a lack of supply infrastructure within walking distance.

These problems are particularly prevalent in suburban areas and in small and medium-sized towns. In the second half of the 20th century, a pronounced urban-rural migration began and young families discovered the single-family house on the outskirts of the city as a preferred form of housing. About 56% of all dwellings in the densely populated areas are in one- or two-party houses. In peripheral areas, the share is around 60%. The average apartment size here is correspondingly high, at 96m² and 95m² respectively. This often results in problems for seniors, who mainly live in single- and two-apartment households, which include the management and maintenance, but also the financing of the living space. Difficulties can also arise in the case of nursing care due to unfavorable floor plans or the distribution of living space over several floors.

Regardless of the type of housing, existing structural barriers represent one of the key challenges with regard to providing housing for older people that meets their needs. According to the Census (2011), nearly 70% of all housing in Germany was built before 1980. In contrast, age-appropriate equipment and design of housing have only gained importance in recent years. Projections by MMI (2019) show that around 85% of the housing stock in multi-party buildings is likely to meet age-related housing needs only to a limited extent due to structural conditions alone.

In summary, there is an urgent need to create age-appropriate housing nationwide. However, with regard to current market developments, certain urbanization and centralization tendencies can be identified. However, a closer look at demand shows that the pressure to act is particularly high in suburban areas, but also in the numerous small and medium-sized towns, due to the demographic situation and the building and settlement structure. In general, different aspects such as individual housing ideas, the degree of need for support and the financial possibilities must be taken into account.

By Dr. Eike C. Winkler. Dr. Eike C. Winkler is an authorized representative of the Moses Mendelssohn Institute.