Louky (94) directs her life from behind her computer. The very oldest of Leiden are more active, healthier, they live longer and more often live independently

Louky van Aggelen (94 years old) is a real regulator. On Monday morning, not just anyone comes to help her with the household, but a student from home care organization Emile. The student does the chores that Van Aggelen himself indicates are necessary and not the tasks that are on the list devised in an office.

The bridge ladies come to play bridge on Monday afternoon. At her place. She likes that. In the evening she eats ready-made meals, which she has of course selected herself and which are freshly prepared. Every now and then someone from informal care organization Saar aan Huis comes to pick her up for a visit to a museum.

This is how she directs her life, from behind her computer in her flat in Cronestein. It is sometimes a coming and going of people who help or bring something, but that does not hinder. “I would only want to leave here if it really doesn’t work anymore, for example if I became blind.”

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© Photo Leonie van der Helm

At the moment, four percent of the Leiden population is eighty years and older. By 2040, the number of people over 80 will almost double. Compared to the total number of inhabitants in 2040, this amounts to slightly more than six percent of the population of Leiden. The aging of the population is approaching, but because the average age is also rising, this is also referred to as double aging.

Today, many people over eighty do not live in a retirement home, but independently, at home. Whereas in the past people soon sought a place in the retirement home after their retirement. In Leiden, a large group (36 percent) of the over-85s live in a single-family home and 32 percent of them live in a single-family home larger than 80 square meters.

Only 10 percent of the over-85s live in a nursing home (source: In.Fact Research). It should be noted, however, that in the Leiden region, 818 elderly people are on the waiting list for a nursing home.

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© Photo Leonie van der Helm

Older people also want to continue living independently. Research by the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Aging into the housing requirements of the over-75s shows that the elderly in Leiden mainly want to continue living where they already live. 98 percent of the over-75s are satisfied with their own home.

On the other hand, there is also a housing shortage in Leiden and the municipality is looking for solutions to promote traffic flow for the group that so desires. In 2020, the municipality of Leiden drew up the action plan ”Leiden op age’, which states that the municipality advises the elderly to make home adjustments in time, so that the house is suitable for life.

The municipality also suggests that it is sometimes better to leave the house and move to a house that better suits the new living situation. The condition is that there must be an adequate supply of suitable housing. In the action plan, the municipality calls the lack of building land for new forms of housing – such as independent houses with a shared living room – a ‘challenge’.

The ‘Leiden op age’ action plan is a result of political intervention by the ChristenUnie in the Leiden city council. The action plan pays a lot of attention to housing for the elderly. Pieter Krol of the ChristenUnie understands the emphasis on housing.

Leiden is the second most populous city in the Netherlands. At the moment we have little to offer families in terms of housing. I propose to entice the elderly to leave their homes, for example with publicity campaigns, and then also offer opportunities in the neighborhood when new-build apartments are delivered.”

Exercise Gardens

But the tight housing market is only a small part of what is needed, according to Krol. He would like much more thought to be given to the physical and economic consequences of the national political choice to allow the elderly to live at home longer.

“I am thinking, for example, of public space,” says Krol. Are the sidewalks wide enough? Can we create exercise gardens for the elderly? What about the neighborhood shopping centers in Leiden, because we cannot expect the elderly to always come to the center of Leiden? And what about public transport in the neighbourhoods?”

The evaluation of ‘Leiden op age’ will be published shortly. If Krol then thinks that it is not good enough, he will certainly take action himself. According to Councilor Julius Terpstra of housing, construction and welfare, the implementation of the twenty previously agreed actions is going well, but it is also imperative that he continues with this theme because of the double aging of the population.

“Yes, it is true that housing is an important part. Moving the elderly to smaller homes also offers opportunities for other groups of people who want to live in Leiden. But the action plan goes further because the municipality provides connections between, for example, the district team and the general practitioners. So, yes, because the contents of my portfolio include both housing and welfare, I understand Mr Krol’s concerns, but the action plan goes further than that.”

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Alderman Julius Terpstra.

Alderman Julius Terpstra.© Archive photo Hielco Kuipers

So let’s talk about housing: Terpstra is busy supporting people from Leiden who are setting up joint forms of housing. In addition, it has been agreed that 70 percent of the 8800 homes to be built in 2030 will be affordable. No arrangements have been made especially for the elderly. That’s because he has to work with areas that differ in size. As a result, you can’t make a general policy about what percentage should be for seniors. Terpstra: “By far the largest part of what is built in Leiden are apartments and they are always life-resistant.”

Income

Another difference with the past is that the income of the very oldest is quite good. In 2018, people over 65 from Leiden had an average disposable household income of 34,300 euros. By way of comparison, the average disposable annual income in the Netherlands was 27,500 euros in the same year.

Not used to

Another difference between the new people over eighty and the very elderly of the past: improved health. In 2017, almost 35 percent of the over-80s in Leiden were still members of a sports association. In Leiden, 18 percent of people over eighty received home care in 2021, according to figures from Zorg en Zekerheid.

The hospital admissions of people over eighty are high. In 2021 there were just over two thousand, according to figures from the LUMC. It should be noted that these are recordings, not persons. Some elderly people may be hospitalized several times a year. Moreover, these are regional, not Leiden figures.

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© Photo Leonie van der Helm

For the whole of the Netherlands, life expectancy in good health has increased by approximately five years since 2000. In men it increased from 61.5 years to 66.4 years, in women from 60.9 years to 65.8 years. On the other hand, more and more people in the Netherlands – 10.2 million in 2020 – will develop a chronic disease. It must also be said that medical detection methods are also getting better and better.

Research has been conducted in Leiden into how many people have dementia. In 2018, almost 7 percent of the over-65s in Leiden had dementia and lived independently at home. Due to the double aging of the population, it is expected that the number of people with dementia will increase in 2030.

“Our society is not yet used to vital people over eighty,” says Jacobijn Gussekloo, professor of primary care at the LUMC . “We like to shoot aid when we think of old people, but they are certainly not all sick and pathetic. Not everyone has a walker and not everyone has dementia. Old people can be lonely, but young people just as well. There is a lot of variation among the elderly. Age doesn’t say much anymore.”

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Louky van Aggelen

Louky van Aggelen© Photo Leonie van der Helm

Louky (94) is still perfectly fine, but her brain has to cross a threshold every now and then

Louky van Aggelen (94) was born in Surabaya, Dutch East Indies. When she was seven her parents returned to the Netherlands. At seventeen she dropped out of high school and dropped out of school. Not long after, she married. Most of her life took place in the Professorenwijk, where she had a child every year from 1954 for three years. She started law enforcement when she was 50.

She started her own project office and was coordinator of the Madurodam Youth Fund. Her husband is now deceased. When the house in the Professorenwijk was due for a paint job and it became clear that painters would be visiting for three weeks, she looked for a smaller house. She found them in Cronestein service flat. Two years later, the letters ‘service flat’ were removed from the facade of the flat, leaving only the doorman. That was no problem for Van Aggelen, who thought the service costs were too high.

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© Photo Leonie van der Helm

She can still organize and organize her life very well, but recently she noticed that her brain has to cross a threshold, as it were, which makes it more difficult for her to work with, for example, a new appliance in the kitchen. Furthermore, she is still perfectly fine, except that walking is difficult for her because of the polyneuropathy, which means that she has to control her legs emphatically if they want to start moving. The only thing she lacks in her life is a good carrier that can take her to a museum or to her daughter in Amsterdam. They think the taxi is too expensive and the regional taxi takes too long. “Recently I wanted to go on a boat tour. Because the regional taxi again took a very long time, all people had to wait for me in the boat for half an hour. I was quite ashamed.”

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