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Healthy living environments for the elderly

The government wants the elderly and other persons with care needs to be able to remain living independently in their own homes for longer. In most cases, these people want that too, but their home environment needs to be adapted. TNO has expertise in age-friendly environments and is a partner for the public sector, businesses and private organisations that are working to ensure homes are better able to meet the needs and wishes of the elderly.

The Dutch population is ageing rapidly. In some residential areas, more than one-third of residents are in the 65+ age group. Many of these people still live in standard family homes (which often have steep staircases), and they walk or cycle to the shops. There may be a local care home, but due to cutbacks and the extensive healthcare responsibilities of local authorities, it is uncertain whether it can remain open. Closure would not only be a severe blow for the home's residents, but would also result in an impoverishment of facilities for other elderly people living locally, since they would no longer be able to drop in for a chat or a cup of coffee.

International network

In the Netherlands, a great deal needs to be done to create and maintain age-friendly living environments for the elderly and other people with care needs, says Willeke van Staalduinen of TNO: 'This includes fitting out homes, preserving local shops and access to facilities. It also includes making sure that residential areas are safe to move around in – an important factor in terms of remaining healthier for longer.' TNO is a partner for local authorities, housing corporations, property developers, care institutions and companies that are involved in providing home and community environments in which elderly people can live comfortably and safely: 'We have the relevant expertise, through our extensive international network, among other things. This means we know how to gain reasonably easy access to funding that's available to support new initiatives.'

Innovative policy

TNO's input can take several forms, for example: cost/benefit analyses of measures already taken. TNO is also conducting research into the wishes of the elderly, and looks into what they are able to do for themselves as well as others. We also have instruments that can be used to identify, in collaboration with commissioning parties, priorities for policy for the elderly, and link these to research into success factors for that policy. Van Staalduinen: 'With other organisations in two cities, we are participating in experiments designed to explore innovative forms of policy for the elderly. This can involve technical innovations (e.g. in the field of ICT) as well as innovations in the community.'

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