Innovative Housing Models for Older Adults


Dementia Village:

“Dementia Village”, just outside of Amsterdam, is considered one of the most cutting edge elder care facilities in the world. The village has facilities like a town square, theater, garden and post office. Cameras are set up around the village to keep an eye out on residents and the staff at various parts of the town are caregivers trained to help those with dementia. People live 6-7 to a house with caretakers also assigned. Each home is uniquely designed and furnished around the time when the residents there begin to lose their memory. If you were to visit the homes, you might see designs from the 1950’s, 1960’s or even 2000’s because it helps residents feel more at home. Over 250 full and part time staff care for the residents. They take on roles within the village like working at the grocery stores, movie theatres or post office clerks. The program was originally funded by the Dutch Government at $25 million to develop and build. The actual cost of care is around $8,000 per month but the government will subsidize a family as needed. Cost is dependent on income and never exceeds $3,600 a month.   A private room in the USA can cost up to $90,000 for patients in an assisted living building. Typical nursing homes look very clinical, which can make a person feel sick or helpless. The idea in this Dutch elder care facility is to make residents feel like they are at home and should be able to help themselves to the degree needed.

The Humanitas Example:

Another project in the Netherlands allows students to live rent free alongside elderly residents. In return for a small rent free apartment, the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer asks the students to spend at least 30 hours helping residents per month. They can do anything from watching sports, offering company when seniors are ill which can help combat loneliness. The program ensures that a bit of the outside world is brought into the home and that a warmth between all parties is created. Altogether there are around 6 students sharing the building with 160 seniors. The students can come and go as they wish but must adhere to one golden principle: Do not be a nuisance to the elderly.

A similar project in Spain between the city of Valladolid and the Municipal Land Housing Company centers around seniors over 65 and college students living together under one roof. The elders are able to extend social relationships and the students obtain cheaper rents by providing social support to their older neighbors. The housing company decides what tasks the students will take on. The project is considered successful in that college students have clearly defined roles and the elderly know who to call in case they need help.

Multi-Generational Housing:

A program in Beekmos, Houten, Netherlands houses young mothers/ adolescents with elderly residents in an assisted living environment. There are 17 units of housing in the project; 13 are dedicated to the young mothers or young girls who can not live with their families. The other four units are reserved for elderly residents that serve as coaches for the young women. The elderly bring life experience and can offer useful advice to the young. On the reverse end, elderly residents have the opportunity to add purpose to their lives and build relationships. The building itself is located in the city center, which makes it easy for all residents to access goods and services. The seniors live on the ground floor while the upper apartments are reserved for the young women. The rooftop terrace, collective meeting spaces and consulting rooms create spaces that encourage meeting and intermingling.


This article offers a look into some assisted living models outside of North America. It focuses primarily on housing models in the Netherlands that prioritize comfort and wellbeing, intergenerational social connection, and mutually beneficial relationships with younger generations, respectively. I found the collaboration between older adults and college students in combined housing to be particularly interesting, as well as the idea of conforming the aesthetics in the Dementia Village housing to the time that the residents began to lose their memory as a way of creating a sense of familiarity and comfort. While this article is not centered around transportation, it still addresses the mobility and social connection needs of older adults. It may prove to be useful further along in my project depending on how I plan to address the situation, but at the very least it is a good reminder to look outside of the United States at how other countries and cultures are addressing the same issues of social isolation and mobility.