The oldest form of collective housing for the elderly is the almshouse. In many towns from the thirteenth century almshouses were built for the elderly and other vulnerable members of society such as widows and unmarried persons. Most were founded by the church, the city council or wealthy citizens. Residents had their own rooms and shared communal facilities such as the kitchen, dining rom and washrooms. In the twentieth century, collective housing for the elderly took various forms with different names: old-age homes, care homes, rest homes, hospices etc.
The essence of this type of provision is the combination of accommodation and care. The homes were intended for elderly people capable of living relatively independently but who required a limited amount of home help or care. Prior to the Second World War many of these facilities were differentiated in terms of faith, social class, gender and profession, and were funded by these particular groups. After the war, with the advent of the welfare state and the introduction, in 1956, of the state pension (Algemene Ouderdomswet), care for the elderly became a spearhead of the new social policy. It was the beginning of a construction explosion in which the combination of accommodation and care developed into a distinct typology. In this period we see the emergence of complexes for the elderly consisting of studios and one-bedroom apartments, a nursing home, a wing for resident personnel and sometimes also a small hospital.
In these types of homes the relationship between private space (the resident’s own accommodation) and communal spaces (such as dining and recreation area) varied, reflecting changing perspectives on social contact, privacy and economic viability. Recently, stricter need assessments have resulted in the closure of many care homes. In some cases, the individual rooms have been converted and sold as senior apartments. There are also initiatives in which former care homes have been converted into community healthcare centres that can also be used by elderly people living independently.