The provision of housing that allows older people to live independently stems from the introduction of the Woningwet (Housing Bill) of 1901 and the Invaliditeits- en Ouderdomswet (Disability and Pensions Bill) of 1913/1919, which entitled citizens over the age of 70 to a small pension. This meant that less wealthy older people could continue to live independently.
These independent homes for older people, built with state subsidies, consist of small, ground-floor terraced houses with gardens for single pensioners or couples. They were built amid normal housing. Between 1930 and 1955 the government favoured independent homes for older people within the community rather than isolated clusters of housing in order to promote natural contact with younger generations. The pensioners live entirely independently, supported by a network of vendors who deliver to the door and regular home visits from the family doctor, a practice that was still customary at the time.
A specific variant of the independent home is a dwelling that houses several generations under one roof. For centuries this had been the traditional rural housing model, but it began to disappear after 1850 due to urbanisation and the growth of the concept of the individual. It was not until 1940 that there was a modest revival of plans for this type of living arrangement. This period saw the emergence of single-family residences with a bedsit for a grandparent and independent homes for older people with a bedsit for a family member who acted as carer. These types of homes were both a tool to relieve the housing shortage and a means of allowing older people to live independently as long as possible. This model disappeared again from the 1960s with the emergence of the post-war social consensus that older people need no longer rely on friends and family but could live independently in a retirement home with professional help. The recent and gradual introduction of the ‘participation society’ has led to a rethink of the live-in model. Proposed examples include the ‘three-generation household’ and the ‘kangaroo house’, in which several generations live independently but in close proximity. Such shared households bring economic benefits, allow the family members to maintain social contact and to make use of each other’s services such as informal caregiving and babysitting.