Why there is a growing need for housing for the elderly

In Denmark, the number of elderly people is set to increase significantly in the coming years – and they will live longer. However, the housing market is not geared to meeting the needs of elderly people. Dive into the facts and read the interview with an expert from Denmark’s largest real estate agency, who gives his take on the biggest challenges. 

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Photo: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect / Ejendomsfoto.dk

The City of Odense, Denmark has a population of approximately 205,000. It is perfect for illustrating how the number of elderly people in Denmark will increase in the coming decades. Because in just ten years’ time, there will be approximately 200,000 more Danes aged 65+ than there are today – corresponding to the total population of the City of Odense. And if we turn the clock forward another ten years, there will be another additional 150,000 or so Danes over the age of 65, taking the total number of elderly people to approximately 1.5 million.

This is just one of the forecasts in a Market Insights report from the real estate agency EDC Erhverv Poul Erik Bech. Head of Research Joseph Alberti points out that the development will put pressure on the Danish housing stock:

“Although lots of senior housing projects, small and large, are springing up all over Denmark, the demand seems to be almost insatiable,” he says.

In this context, senior housing denotes a relatively new type of housing that is needed to fill a gap in the housing market between single-family houses and care homes.


Photo: Housing for seniors in Sønderborg, Denmark

No more gardening, excess rooms and maintenance

More elderly people is not in itself a challenge for the housing market. In the report ‘Elderly people’s housing situation and future housing dreams’ from 2019, the Danish Centre for Social Science Research (VIVE) points out that the majority of respondents over the age of 52 still prefer to stay in their current home. But the same report also points out that this attitude is waning and that the new generations of elderly people are increasingly thinking about moving in late adulthood.

Joseph Alberti from EDC Erhverv Poul Erik Bech recognises this picture.

“The increasing demand for senior housing is basically due to the fact that many seniors are considering moving out of the family home where they raised their children. They want fewer commitments and less gardening and maintenance work. Some want to downsize because their children have left home,” he says.

This point is supported by the VIVE report, where half of the respondents who are considering moving say that it is because they “want a smaller home”. This is followed by “do not want to have to do gardening” (22 per cent), “want to live more centrally” (12 per cent) and “want to live more cheaply” (11 per cent).

Wealthy elderly with opportunities

And elderly people who own their own homes often have the means to realise their dreams of moving.

“Many seniors are quite affluent, and the number of well-heeled seniors is set to increase in future. Both because Denmark has quite a highly developed pension system, and also because many people have accumulated quite a lot of home equity over the years – not least in Greater Copenhagen, northern Zealand, Aarhus and on the outskirts of the larger cities. Some would like to tap into their home equity, for example in order to travel more. And so they start looking for a different type of housing – renting, cooperative housing or the like,” says Joseph Alberti.

However, some elderly people have no home equity to tap into. Financial resources are more limited in the provinces, and the VIVE also report points to a small group of elderly people who are renting. This group of people, who may live for many more years, are faced with high housing costs and no prospect of them coming down.

Sense of community and freedom

Housing dreams vary greatly among the various elderly age segments. Among the 52 to 62-year-olds, one in three in the VIVE report say that they would like to live in a co-housing community. This is double the numbers among 82 to 97-year-olds.

“The sense of community in senior housing can help improve the quality of life, for example through an increased sense of security and helping to combat loneliness, which affects some elderly people, not least single people,” says Joseph Alberti from EDC.

He points to a study from Realdania, which shows that 91 per cent of residents in senior co-housing communities experience improved quality of life, and 75 per cent experience better social relationships.

The analysis also shows that elderly people living in senior co-housing communities only need about one seventh of the average amount of practical help usually provided by the public services.

“The obvious explanation is that the elderly are able to help each other with daily chores and so need less public care services,” says Joseph Alberti, who stresses that the demand for senior co-housing communities far exceeds supply.

“In 2016, VIVE estimated that 80,000 elderly people were interested in moving into senior co-housing communities, but today we still only have about 7,000-8,000 places,” says Joseph Alberti.

Shortage of all housing types

However, it is only senior co-housing communities that will be in short supply in the coming years. There will also be a need for so-called senior-friendly housing, which is ordinary housing with age-friendly features, i.e. with wide doors and no door steps for the sake of people with reduced mobility. 

In addition, we are seeing an increasing number of serviced assisted-living facilities that offer communal activities as well as a number of optional services such as nursing care, cleaning, laundry and the like.

Finally, we are going to see an increase in the number of private assisted-living facilities in the coming years. In other words, care homes run by private players. According to EDC Erhverv Poul Erik Bech, the model is widespread in Sweden, but due to complex regulations less so in Denmark. But the need is very much there, says Joseph Alberti:

“A new analysis from the Danish Construction Association points out that there is a need for 26,000 additional assisted-living units in the next ten years. The number of Danes aged 80+ will grow by 160,000 by 2030, and the public sector may find it difficult to provide enough housing,” he says.

You can read more about the future of senior housing in the article here.


Read Market Insight from EDC Erhverv Poul Erik Bech about senior housing