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Nursing homes are a distinct category within housing for the elderly. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries chronically sick elderly people were accommodated in almshouses or mental hospitals. Nursing homes usually have wards or bedrooms on either side of a long corridor plus bathrooms, kitchens, dining rooms and sometimes accommodation for resident personnel. In the latter half of the twentieth century, there was a move towards treating the elderly in geriatric hospitals and returning them to their homes following recovery.

Many nursing homes were built in the twentieth century, some of them as nursing wings within a retirement home. In terms of layout (the corridor system), atmosphere and regulations, they are similar to hospitals. Until the 1970s residents were accommodated in open wards and spent their days in communal recreation rooms. Retirement homes and nursing homes were often linked by a central hallway or courtyard. Some have a rehabilitation department and modest treatment rooms. Today need assessment is stricter: only those who can no longer live independently are given a place in a nursing home. The population of nursing homes is thus in decline and new homes are being built only for pensioners with severe physical and psychological impairments. In architectural terms, this requires a careful balance between the creation of a pleasant residential environment and the provision of optimal care, in which the design of the interior is increasingly important.