Public space for the needs of the elderly in large housing estates in Slovenia
The problem of population aging is so severe that it has become an important topic in many areas, including in living and spatial planning. In case of Slovenia, this is particularly highlighted by two characteristics. First, after independence, extremely radical privatization of the former state-owned rental housing was carried out, therefore Slovenia is characterized by high ownership occupancy of dwellings. 96 per cent of Slovenians over sixty-five own their apartments or houses and especially after the age of eighty, the share of homeowners even increases. On the other hand, during socialism, housing construction was focused on building large, concentrated housing estates. In Slovenia, 40 per cent of large housing estates are buildings that were built between 1946 and 1985. Due to rapid industrialization and, consequently, urbanization, however, cities faced a chronic lack of housing after the Second World War. The countries of central and eastern Europe rapidly built up working-class neighborhoods in order to address the scarcity of housing due to large migration of the rural population to cities where it was easier to find a source of income. The urban plans envisaged that young and healthy people would live in these large housing estates, and therefore the public space in these neighborhoods was adapted to their needs. Because Slovenia is characterized by low housing mobility, and because the residents had the option to buy their rental apartments after independence, the majority of the first residents still live in large housing estates. As a result, the age structure of these large housing estates has changed considerably; their residents have grown old, but the public space in these large housing estates is still adapted for younger and healthy people, as planned, rather than for the needs of the elderly. This reduces the quality of life of the elderly, increases the risk of their social exclusion, and reduces the possibility of their active involvement in the community and the local environment. This is particularly worrying because the elderly would also like to remain or age in their home environment as long as possible, where they can lead their lives as independently as possible with the best possible quality of life, which is also confirmed by a number of studies. Studies have also shown that independent life improves health of the elderly, stimulates life satisfaction and increases their self-esteem. All of these can postpone use of institutionalized care by the elderly. However, it is important that the public space in large housing estates be adapted to the needs of the elderly to ensure everyone a dignified—and, first and foremost, high-quality—life in old age, and active integration into the local community, which is also an important source of social support for the elderly. For these reasons, it is important to explore public space in large housing estates and the needs, habits, and expectations of their elderly residents regarding this space.