Skip to content


Ten years have passed since the first edition of this book. Since then, awareness of the principles of “Universal Design” in the building sector has grown significantly, indeed more than initially expected. The demand for inpatient care, however, has not diminished, for which there are concrete reasons.

All the same,no-one wants to go into a home.Inpatient care has therefore also had to respond to growing competitionby providing a range of different outpatient and day-care offerings to improve its image and become moreattractive.

The design of housing for the elderly is not generally regarded by architects as a glamorous task. This situation changes, however, as soon as we begin to reappraise society’s actual needs and focus more on bringing real needs into the foreground. It becomes immediately apparent that there is no greater or more urgent task than to address the living and housing requirements of young people, of families, and of people who are growing ever-older.

The most important and objective indicator for the pursuit of happiness of people born today is their life expectancy. This indicator tells us, for example, whether there is a high instance of death in infancy and whether food and nutrition is abundant and clean. Life expectancy reflects the environmental hygienic conditions of air and water, the availability and quality of health care provisions, pension systems and working conditions. This indicator is a more fundamental explanation for the migration of millions of people from south to north than any number of individual parameters.

The average life expectancies in central and northern Europe as well as in Japan are the highest in the
world. It is therefore no surprise that a greater than average proportion of good examples featured in this book are to be found in Switzerland and its neighbouring countries. Yet old age is not a territorial or national phenomenon but a global issue.

The whole world would like to live as long as one already lives in central Europe. Our topic will become increasingly important in coming decades in regions of the world outside of the highly industrialised nations, although this may apply only to particular sections of society.
Even in China and India, families are already increasingly paying outside providers to assist the family with “services” that they provided for themselves in the past. The only realistic alternative to the variety of forms,  typologies and concepts for housing old people is the Scandinavian model. Here, elderly citizens are provided with outpatient care in their own homes, and special facilities and homes for the elderly are built only rarely.   

This, however, requires even greater investment and involvement and is only possible with a corresponding political commitment.Living is about “feeling comfortable”. For each individual to feel comfortable, hundreds of minute factors have to be fulfilled. Among the many functional means of addressing these factors, we architects feel particularly driven to provide the appropriate design frame for this sense of well-being.

In the process, we need to be aware that in old age, one is still very much able to judge what one likes and dislikes. The attraction of unnecessary frippery fades with age in favour of more “essential” aspects, items of actual worth, clarity of expression and fitness for purpose. With this book, we hope not least to convey something of this

It is this message that – a decade on – we wish to reiterate and extend. We need to be bolder in our design means, more open in our consideration of boundary conditions, and more vibrant, resourceful and open to experimentation! In the new edition of this book, an entire chapter has been replaced to include examples of how living and care concepts can be interwoven as mutually complementary functions – in social diversity lies great potential for society and for architecture!