Aging Around the World: Germany

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

Are Nursing Homes Inevitable?

In most of the developed world, birth rates have been falling. Population decline results in economic and social strains and can even threaten national security. Germany is a particularly severe example of this trend. Germany has had an extremely low birth rate for decades. Its resident population is in absolute decline; its family policies have failed to restore birth rates to a replacement level. Now what?

Aging in Place in Germany

WAW-germany-blogpostApproximately every fourth person in Germany is over 60 years old. Because of low birth rates and increasing life expectancy, German society has the third ­largest proportion of elderly people worldwide after Japan and Italy.

The vast majority of elderly people in Germany lead independent lives, are socially active, in contact with their children and relatives, and for the most part are in a position to determine their own lives and actively decide how to make use of their time.

Financially speaking the elder generation is for the most part taken care of: The 1957 pension reform gradually gave pensioners a full share in the nation’s wealth. Poverty in old age has not been done away with entirely, but the risk of being poor in old age is lower than that of other age groups.

A Federal project seeks to strengthen and secure cross-generational ties. Almost every district and each municipality in Germany now boasts a multi­generational house. The 500 subsidized buildings, to which 15,000 people are committed nationwide, form a point of contact, network and hub for family advice, health support, crisis intervention and care planning.

People of all ages live in these buildings together.

“We haven’t built a nursing home in 10 years and we don’t plan on building any,” says Alexander Künzel, chief executive of the Bremer Heimstiftung, a foundation providing long­term care services. Instead, the foundation offers multigenerational residential buildings where seniors can rent one of 85 apartments with round-­the-­clock assistance and a nursery school next door.

This can be summarized in just a few words: As part of a growing trend in Germany, what really matters is that elderly citizens stay out of institutionalized care.

This is a strongly held belief at the Council on Aging for Henderson County. With the help of so many other agencies in our community, we provide and coordinate services to help our clients live independently for as long as possible.

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