The demographic development in countries with a constantly growing number of elderly and in particular, very elderly persons, combined with the simultaneous decrease in the number of younger persons no longer able to provide for the elderly, poses new challenges to ensuring care for senior citizens. Provision of services for the elderly must also be restructured for another reason: An increasing number of senior citizens wishes to remain in the residential environment they are familiar with and live in as independent and self-determined a manner as possible – even if they depend on assistance and care.
Given these economic and social challenges, care provision for the elderly must be implemented with greater consequence than to date, the prevailing principle being «outpatient over inpatient». Life in normal residential areas must cater to the requirements of senior citizens who wish to remain in the environment they are familiar with and to partake in life there. The concept of integrated service areas is focused on residential areas of towns, municipalities or villages where the elderly and the young can live together. It is an integral part of this concept that the necessary infrastructure and assistance be provided to the elderly in cooperation with local stakeholders and citizens, e.g.:
- Barrier-free or low-barrier «normal» apartments and easily accessible public spaces;
- Low-threshold assistance provided by specialists as well as neighbours;
- Small-scale home care (also for those elderly with a considerable need of care);
- One or several meeting and care centers, including residential forms for senior citizens in need of care
Trials with such residential area concepts are underway in numerous countries. But although similar goals are pursued, implementation procedures differ. Despite the largely universal needs of senior citizens, the organization and financing of living, care and social offers can vary tremendously from country to country. This impacts the role of the stakeholders as well as the extent of and speed with which changes can be brought about: Some countries have already been able to gain many years of experiences in this field, whereas others are only at the starting point. Up until now, if experiences were exchanged at all, then only between individual countries. Looking beyond country boundaries can help to overcome national barriers, especially with regard to social laws and administrative regulations. Concrete solutions vary from location to location – the problem and approaches, however, are global. This international best-practice platform aims at promoting the exchange of experiences, encouraging mutual learnings and stimulating innovation. The corresponding information will be made available to all interested parties and is to serve primarily as a source of inspiration for specialists, politicians and civil organizations, thus motivating them to contribute to the implementation of such concepts.
In a first step, examples from four countries were documented and published on the web, i.e.: the Netherlands; Germany; Denmark and Switzerland. In a second step, the group was expanded by Participants from other countries (Sweden, USA, Japan) and the website was restructured. It was found, that the exchange of information would be of high importance. Therefore the website contains different information about projects, initiatives and articles related to the topic of integrated service areas. Partners from other countries are welcome to contribute as well. To date, the platform has remained a private initiative, with work carried out independently of governments or the European Union. Platform participants meet twice a year to inspect projects or exchange experiences.
All information is to be translated and published in English as well as German. More Examples should be provided and presented in a similar structure i.g. All projects are presented according to the same structure, i.e.: Brief summary; Project goals and focus points; Components and modules (offer): residential, social and care aspects: Procedural elements (stakeholders): cooperation, contributions, project implementation; Costs and financing; Framework conditions (support and barriers).
A description of the national old-age policy of every country should provide background information to understand the examples.
In a further phase, the examples provided are to be analyzed systematically to allow for the four participating countries to benefit from mutual learnings. Simultaneously, the number of countries involved is to be expanded upon; the goal being to set up a International network that will present and discuss results at a International or European conference. The Internet platform could also be expanded further in order to make it possible for the stakeholders to share knowledge.