Since 2008, there has been a 47 per cent growth in the number of seniors in Norway aged 67-79. By 2040, one in four Norwegians will be over 65 years of age. This forecast demand is persuading residential developers to cater for the modern, social seniors of 2020.
The year is 2002. A small firm has made a major investment. On a plot extending over more than 8.5 hectares, our intrepid investors have visited, planned, conceptualised and decided. They intend to build Norway's largest residential complex for seniors – a garden village that is the envy of the land, and a perfect example of gracious communal living for seniors. Aimed at folks whose children have flown the nest or whose family home is now dauntingly large for a couple or an individual, it also attracts those who want to remain socially active and engaged during their senior years.
In the mild and convivial South, as Norwegians often imagine this corner of the country to be, right on the doorstep of the regional centre, Kristiansand, the expansive grounds are being prepared for future development.
"There are a number of reasons why we made this commitment, but first and foremost we wanted to address loneliness among the elderly. We knew there would be a need for communal residences, and we wanted to achieve something that would enhance the quality of life for this age group. We recognised that the civic authorities were struggling, and demand would continue to grow. Most of us enjoy socialising and not being alone. Of course, we also saw a business opportunity," concedes Per Håkon Hansen in HSH Utvikling, the far-sighted builder behind the Kristiansand development.
Today there are more than 900,000 citizens over the age of 65 living in Norway. Never have there been so many seniors in the country. At the national level, over-65's make up more than 17 per cent of the population - and both the absolute number and proportion are expected to grow as we approach 2040. By then, there will be more than 1.4 million seniors in this category in Norway, reports from Statistics Norway show, representing almost 25 per cent of the population. "There is no doubt that there will be a large number of elderly people in the future. Today's 75-year-olds are much healthier than 20 years ago. More are surviving serious illness, and people live longer. In 2060, we anticipate that there will be four times as many over-90's as today," predicts Astri Syse, senior researcher at Statistics Norway.
"I want to applaud local councils who are already grasping this challenge. At the same time, many over-65's actually have the means to buy their own retirement nest. Even so, this change is easier to make in towns and conurbations – seniors living in rural districts face a tougher task to find a suitable flat. There are simply fewer available," she explains.
First and foremost we wanted to address loneliness among the elderly.Per Håkon Hansen, HSH Utvikling
In their search for inspiration for the senior village project, the investors toured like-minded developments in Denmark, where the idea of a residential community was even further refined.
"The Danes are good at this – they love to socialise. No doubt that is why they beat us to it! Our concept requires residents to be over 45 to buy a flat. In fact, most are over 60," says Hansen.
The project has adopted a concept known as Carré housing, where the residential units encircle a large communal area. This is typically a garden or park and whatever other functions residents prefer. The units are owner-occupier flats financed by private mortgage loans. Residents also pay monthly dues on behalf of the social functions.
Technically the units are thermally passive, which means low energy consumption. Newcomers used to traditional detached houses, will often find their electricity bills are significantly lower.
"Although our residents tend to worry very little about energy prices, everybody really loves our cosy, comfortable units. As professional builders, of course, we are also delighted that the best possible technologies are applied."
While planning is going on, developers are also looking at the communal calendar and social amenities. These arrangements are highly prized by residents, who speak warmly of their new home. Indoor walking and running track, car wash, computer and network support, handyman assistance, village intranet, postal collection and plant care when you are away, boccia, badminton, gym, Service Desk, guest room, private function rooms and cultivator frames are just some of the opportunities offered in the village.
"Gradually these activities have evolved and become the treasured and well-established attractions they are today. The entire motivation at Randesund Hageby is to dispel loneliness, and the policy works. An important way forward was to appoint our Social Coordinator, who is based in the Service Centre and organises events and initiatives. Residents can simply express their needs, and things will be taken care of!"
Developer INEO Eiendom in Stavanger is also working on a senior citizens concept for its projects. Basically, the plan is to offer high-quality services. They also espouse the latest technology and have even written an 'app' allowing residents to book favourite activities.
"We focus on a broad range of amenities, for instance vegetable gardens and greenhouses, guided nature walks, swimming, cinema, and other attractions. A spacious communal atrium is ideal for socialisin g, for bridge nights or Saturday sports. The precise content is up to the residents," says Roy Klungtvedt, head of marketing in INEO Eiendom.
"For these residences we have chosen innovative, smart solutions to ensure the best possible energy efficiency in the complex. We are in the process of developing a digital platform, allowing all residents to easily book slots for favourite activities, or even book one of the shared electric cars. The smart digital platform also means you can dim the lights, adjust the heating, manage the door locks and set the alarm, and so on," he adds enthusiastically.
At Vålandstunet, the communal living complex has set a lower age limit, so at least one member of the household must be 58 or over in order to live here.
"The facility is not only for retirees, but we do want social seniors to be the main focus."
Over the past ten years, there has been a trend towards an increasing number of senior households, aged 67 and above, with mortgage debt. This may have several reasons, such as using home equity to add to income in retirement, but also the purchasing of a new, age-appropriate flat or house. The chart below illustrates the share of households at or above 67 years of age with debt of any kind (but typically a mortgage) or amount, a share which has increased to 70 per cent.
The second chart below presents the results of a Statistics Norway 2018 survey which shows households, by age group, that reported financial difficulties, in per cent of all households. These difficulties may range from the challenge of managing an unexpected expense to problems servicing debt. Of all households, the group of households above 67 years has the lowest share of reported financial difficulties (1 per cent) and no senior households reported any difficulties servicing a mortgage or other debt in the survey. The two highest scoring categories among older households were difficulties in managing an unexpected expense at 8 per cent and 7 per cent that reported high living expenses.
Households of 67 years and above with debt
Households of 67 years and above with debt
As of January 2020, Randesund Hageby is an established, attractive senior citizens village in Kristiansand with more than 170 residents. As plans move forward for the next building phase, current owners are only too delighted to trumpet the benefits of convivial living, even acting as enthusiastic ambassadors for anyone visiting. Local councillors, government ministers and residential developers regularly visit this gracious communal living complex on the South Coast. Director Hansen is convinced such concepts will gradually also be adopted by municipalities, though the process may be long.
"What is more likely, I think, is that communal villages will be an added option for socially active seniors. It is exciting that so many people come to look, express an interest and learn more about the concept. Projects like these are the future, I believe, probably for all age groups, but not least for senior citizens."