Lebensräume für Jung und Alt
neighbour as thyself seems unavoidable.
HOUSING THE YOUNG AND OLD IN GERMANY
A report by Ed Grimsdale
In Britain, we tend to think of young and old as separate species with contrasting housing needs. Many developments such as those of English Courtyards (see article on page 2 ) cater specifically for one of these groups. A different philosophy was developed ten years ago in Vogt in southern Germany and this piece examines it to see if there are lessons that we may learn.
The “living spaces” for young and old are created by the organisation St. Anna-Hilfe and they provide a mutually supportive environment to house a carefully balanced mixtures of old and young, unmarried, one- parent and traditional families. Self- help, active neighbourhood communities and mutual support are the axioms that underpin the concept. Individual dwellings may be rented or bought, although buyers must be “oldies” in order to facilitate turnover and maintain . The inhabitants buy or rent a lifestyle as well as a home. St Anna- Hilfe is a Catholic organisation and whilst formal religion seems to play little part in its communes, a subscription to the second commandment of the New Testament : Thou shalt love thy
Mutual Self Help Balanced allocation is core to the concept and is overtly engineered. Dwellings are differently sized and each community contains shared community spaces to encourage interaction, group activities and meetings. Individual inhabitants take over voluntarily caretaker and garden activities, or support neighbours with shopping and cooking or help each other with child-care. This minimises the need for expensive professional intervention. All the developments are placed within the greater community that they serve with easy pedestrian access to shops, doctors and local services. The retention of links with family members outside the complex is vigorously encouraged.
What happens when only professional care will suffice? This may be provided within the community if the individual is rich enough to afford individual care or through moving to an Old People’s Home supported by the foundation. All the units are designed to be fully accessible to those who need wheelchairs or use mobility scooters
Community A community worker encourages active mutual assistance and self- help. The finance for community work stems from a social fund, or community chest supported by the municipality, private donations and profits from sales of the housing stock.
The Service-Zentrum The spatial heart of the habitat community is the service-Zentrum. Its meetings room, office and care areas are open to all inhabitants, both owners and tenants. It contains an area for group activities:
8 Young and Old : Chalk and Cheese?
The projects do not pretend that friction never occurs between young and old. They do claim that the informal neighbourhood watch plus the presence of community workers do offer avenues to negotiation, arbitration and counselling. They point to the spread of the concept not only across Germany but into Austria.
Valuing the Old The system doesn’t isolate the old , putting them behind a wall in a
a toddlers’ club, a regular inhabitants’ cafe, the common midday luncheon, various lectures or aerobics. Such meetings are usually organized by the inhabitants, themselves. The Zentrum rooms may be hired for private gatherings.
A Warden On-call? No. The inhabitants form telephone chains and support patrol schedules to ensure that vulnerable neighbours are checked and to offer support when difficulties occur. Some of the younger people who might struggle to balance the demands of a family and a job ( one parent families, for instance) find that they can earn money by providing elements of the professional services that are supported by the community chest
The Age Structure of a Typical Project:
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