Housing Design for All? The challenges of ageing in urban planning and housing design – The case of Helsinki

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The objective of this study was to gain knowledge on housing design that supports older people in their daily living. Housing design and neighbourhood planning can enhance social and physical activities of persons who live in their own homes at old age or with disabilities. The aim of the study was to explore the design features supporting general wellbeing and independence of older people. The research questions were: Which features of the built environment support activities of daily living, and how urban planning and housing design can support the older population? Three case studies were carried out on the perimeter of Helsinki city centre in a real-life context. The case study areas varied from a standard residential neighbourhood and sheltered housing, to a group home for people with memory decline. The study used qualitative and mixed methods: workshops, observational walking tours, interviews and questionnaires. The participation of older residents was emphasized in all three case studies. They were main informants to gain further knowledge on housing design supporting independent coping during different stages of life. The results indicate that the neighbourhood design, public transport network and proximity of green environments influence mobility and the sense of integration within a community. Moreover, the length of residency was related to the familiarity of the living environment, which gave residents a sense of security, and supported their activities of daily life. Furthermore, the results show that older residents preferred the local services that were the most accessible ones. Comprehensive design and a versatile environment with various activities may promote Ageing in Place policies and enhance cross-generational social encounters. Moreover, many obstacles caused by reduced physical and sensory functioning capacities can be lessened by applying Universal Design of the built environment. Architects and urban planners have a major role in designing the city and ensuring that it does not exclude any resident groups. Mainstream housing developments with attention to a variety of resident groups will enhance living at home at old age. Moreover, frail people with high care needs should experience being part of community life. Collaboration with local service providers, schools, cafés and restaurants may enable to providing a variety of activities to the residents in sheltered housing.
Translated title of the contributionHousing Design for All? The challenges of ageing in urban planning and housing design – The case of Helsinki
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Lapintie, Kimmo, Supervising Professor
  • Huttunen, Hannu, Thesis Advisor
  • Malmqvist, Inga, Thesis Advisor, External person
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8622-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8623-1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • housing design
  • older people
  • neighbourhood planning
  • daily living
  • urban planning


Dive into the research topics of 'Housing Design for All? The challenges of ageing in urban planning and housing design – The case of Helsinki'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this