Italy trying to prepare housing for massive boom of elderly

No topic appears to be more cultural related than dealing with ageing among tenants, as we learned at the ‘Senior Social Housing’ session of the Urbanpromo social housing conference in Turin. After introductions by Francesco Cocco on housing project for elderly in Barcelona and Gaullaume Lelong of Domitys about French elderly housing, we received  a very nice insight in the status of the Italian welfare state and cultural preferences of Italians growing old.

Striking was the comment that moderator Elio Morino made about Italians considering to leave Italy once they retire because of the low pension, high prices and difficult living conditions in the country. ‘Apparently Italy is a country that people want to flee from’ he noted. This was illustrated by the figures that various speakers showed, comparing the Italian case with abroad. Retired Italians are relatively poor, have shorter life expectation and are more dependent on their family for basic service in daily life.

But the specific status of senior Italians has a cultural background as well. One speaker mentioned that Italians are very attached to their house and absolutely don’t want to move when they get old and need help. Even though selling their homes (average price is 200.000 euros) would give them the opportunity to move to a smaller, but better equipped, serviced  home. As a result, just a fraction (a few percent) of seniors live in a house that is equipped for the care they need, while about 20% actually need it.

As a result, several ways of involving communities in care for elderly and innovations in using ICT in making elderly care more efficient were discussed by the panel.

Even though the tone of the meeting was positive and light, one could feel that the stakes were rather high. Only one look at a graph indicating the huge increase of  +65 and even +80 year olds in the next two decades should be a call for action and a sharper debate. Are the younger Italians really prepared to care for not just that one senior family member that needs daily assistance, but for a much bigger group of senior relatives, neighbors and friends that need to be cared for as well?

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