Ageing in place: where is best? Village or city?

Irene Lebrusán Murillo, asociated lecturer in Carlos III University of Madrid

We are increasingly living more years and also we prefer to grow old independently, in the environment that we know, and, if we can, in our own homes. The census says that this is the choice of 96.4% of elderly people. The evidence available shows that ageing at home benefits the health and wellbeing of elderly people, even those in a situation of dependency, and also that it is the most economic option for the State. The question lies in knowing whether the dwellings inhabited by these people really favour quality ageing or, to the contrary, they expose those who live in them to situations of vulnerability. This study shows that, for the purposes of housing quality, it is better to age in very small municipalities or in very large cities. In medium-sized cities there is a higher percentage of people who suffer extreme residential vulnerability.
Key points
  • 1
       In Spain, of the total of people aged over 65 years (1,596,675 people), 20.1% reside in homes that suffer from extreme residential vulnerability, defined by an accumulation of serious problems in the dwelling.
  • 2
       Of the total number of elderly people in a situation of extreme residential vulnerability (592,366 personas), 37.1% live in medium-sized towns or cities (10,000 to 100,000 inhabitants).
  • 3
       The most serious housing problems are: having no toilet inside the dwelling, having no running water, lack of a public sewage system and living in buildings that are run-down.
  • 4
       The most common housing problems are lack of accessibility and lack of heating.
Percentage of people aged over 65 years who are suffering extreme residential vulnerability (due to an accumulation of serious problems in the dwelling) according to municipality size.

There is a higher probability of finding elderly people in a situation of extreme residential vulnerability in municipalities with between 20,001 and 50,000 inhabitants firstly; in municipalities with between 50,001 and 100,000 inhabitants secondly, and lastly, in municipalities of between 10,001 and 20,000 inhabitants. The extremes (living in a village with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, but especially in the smallest villages, or alternatively in a city with over 500,000 inhabitants), are those that offer the greatest protection to elderly people. Therefore, less vulnerability is suffered by elderly people who live in very small or very large municipalities.

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