OLGA founder Dorothea Hoffmeister has come up with a fantastic solution which may change the lives of countless retirees in both Germany and the rest of Europe.
OLGA stands for “Oldies Leben Gemeinsam Aktiv” which roughly translates into English as “Active oldies living together.” and its ethos is one of independence and supportive comminity living which allows retirees to maintain control over their own lives, whilst still having a peer network nearby.
In a recent interview for Quartz with Renuka Rayasam, a freelance writer living in Berlin, Hoffmeister explained that the idea first came to her in the 1990s, as her 50th birthday approached. She wondered how her later years would be spent, recalling the depressing manner in which her Grandmother was housed in a traditional nursing home. Living in Nuremberg, in the South of Germany at the time, Hoffmeister was certain that a nursing home wouldn’t be what she wanted, but she was also unenthusiastic about living alone.
The plan was for her and a number of like-minded retirees to rent apartments in a close proximity to each other, which they did for a number of years before investing in an apartment complex which they used to house the community.
“One isn’t alone, there is someone to rely on when one is sick, or to go to the movies or exercise with,” said Hoffmeister, who is now 69. “Even the women in the group who have children and grandchildren prefer to live at their own pace with other women.”
The feature links to an interesting study by the German Federal Institute for Population Research which declares that Germany has the second oldest population in the world, second only to Japan.
Germany is also very progressive in providing programmes and communities for LGBT retirees, but communities such as OLGA are still quite rare. This is, however, set to change, as older people are living far more active and productive lives than they were even a generation ago. This means that society itself will have to adapt to support this. Once again, German authorities have been responsive to this:
Last year Germany’s family ministry kicked off a program called “gemeinschaftlich wohnen, selbstbestimmt leben” or “communal housing, independent living,” that provides financial support to 29 model senior community living projects around the country. The ministry realized that current housing didn’t meet the needs of Germany’s seniors, said a ministry spokesperson in an email. The apartments need to be accessible for older residents who may not be as mobile and designed to prevent “social isolation.”
You can find out more about OLGA on their official website.