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What if retirement homes were replaced with grandma’s cottage? 

The ageing Finnish population needs new ways to organise good care and dignified living conditions at a reasonable cost. 

According to current forecasts, the number of people with memory diseases will double by 2050. How will we deal with this challenge, when people are already talking about a shortage of carers and problems with homecare? 

Sotera, a research institute led by Aalto University, is developing new models for housing the elderly and building hospitals together with municipalities, hospital districts and doctors. For example, in the small municipality of Lapinjärvi, the ‘grandma’s cottage model’ has been designed as one solution which would be part of a larger development project. The plan is to build these cottages close together in the centre of the municipality, which would help with the provision of home services and especially with monitoring the safety of those with memory diseases. 

Professor Pirjo Sanaksenaho explains that alternatives for housing the elderly are also being sought in urban areas. 

‘Instead of the traditional sheltered homes located on the edge of the suburbs, sheltered housing blocks are being planned for the city centre. Good transport connections and the proximity of services support daily exercise, which is important for staying in good health, and the different generations are able to live close to each other. For example, one of our students designed a service centre to be located next to the Vuosaari metro station in Helsinki. This centre has housing for people with memory diseases, a day centre, and a direct indoor connection to the Kolumbus shopping centre.’ 

There is also a desire to make hospitals part of the city. On a course run by Sotera and HUS, architecture master’s students got to make their own design proposal for the Laakso psychiatric hospital. Because the site is very built up already, the students designed for the roofs a number of outdoor spaces with green areas and planned the walkways to provide a route through the hospital area into the Central Park. In the future, it will be possible to open the hospital’s cafés to all city residents. 

‘HUS was excited about the design – they got new ideas for how the hospital’s different operations could be located’, says Sanaksenaho.

About Sotera

  • In 1983, the Social Welfare and Health Care Development Research Institute was established. 
  • Partnering groups include the Changing Society - Changing Services research project and the government’s Täydentäen toimivaa (Additions for Better Functioning) key project involving the municipalities of Lapinjärvi, Porvoo and Savitaipale. The goal of the project is to develop home and informal care so that living at home could continue as long as possible even in municipalities with net outward migration. 
  • In addition to architects, Sotera projects often also include urban planners, service designers and engineers. 
  • Sotera works together a lot with other Nordic and European research entities. 
  • Over the years, Sotera has seen the completion of over 20 theses on topics ranging from hospital design to service centre models. 
  • Working group: Pirjo Sanaksenaho, Teemu Kurkela, Jarmo Suominen, Erkki Vauramo, Ira Verma, Jonna Taegen