In 2016, the European Commission, together with the University of Utrecht and Creative Skills for Life (the Agile Ageing Alliance) and regional partners, explored innovative initiatives in age-friendly housing and communities throughout Europe in a series of workshops under the heading "Neighbourhoods of the Future". Roadshow events took place in Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain and Poland.
On 8th December 2016 this exercise culminated in a gathering in Brussels, held in conjunction with the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing. For the first time, partners from across Europe, representing public authorities, NGOs, construction and IT industries, research organisations, representatives of the older generation and the finance sector join forces.
With a number of inspiring contributions, the event resulted in a resounding confirmation of the participants' common commitment to create innovative, smart, inclusive living environments for our ageing societies with a clear common vision on how to move ahead in 2017: partners are determined to create a European Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing, based on the elements and criteria identified during this past year.
There are plenty of innovative ideas at various stages of implementation: new age-inclusive built environments, technology supported living arrangements keeping older people out of institutionalised care for longer, new forms of communities and neighbourhoods.
Barriers for investment
Despite a wide-spread desire and capacity to create sustainable living environments, however, some barriers for investment in large-scale building and retrofitting have yet to be overcome: There is a lack of certainty about the most promising building, retrofitting and connectivity measures, elements of what actually makes a home or neighbourhood age-friendly or age-inclusive, what the most adequate financing models are and how to measure the expected return on investment.
The consultation process made clear that a common European Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing will help alleviate this insecurity and pave the way for informed investment decisions: there needs to be a clear idea of viable, affordable solutions and their benefits for fulfilled, meaningful living in the home environment which also have positive effects for (public) finances.
In 2017, the Commission will call those most committed to contribute to drafting this European Reference Framework to boost confidence and investment in homes and neighbourhoods fit for Europe's longevity challenge. The roadshow and its December conclusion have laid a solid foundation for the work ahead.
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