Progress in making the dwelling environment more appropriate has not kept pace with progress in extending the average human life-span. There is a need for the environment in which old people live to be of qualitatively higher standard to compensate for their somewhat sudden exclusion from participation in the productive aspects of modern industrial society and their consequent segregation. This is exacerbated by the demise of the 3-generation family structure and also by the preponderance of small houses being built. Married women are increasingly going out to work, and cannot look after aged relatives. Modern houses are expensive and beyond the means of many old people. Housing facilities tend not to take account of old people's needs: accessibility to collective social and medical services and isolation from noise and the usual stress of city life, while at the same time keeping touch with their families and friends.
An EEC/EU survey (early 1990s) found that in houses where the head of household was aged 54 or older, the four conveniences (running hot water; indoor lavatory; bathtub or shower stall; and central heating) were all present in only 52% of such households in the (then) Federal Republic of Germany and only 30% in France. In UK households with head aged 65 or older, only 33% had central heating.
It was reported in 1999 that in the countries of the European Union more elderly people living on their own were without running hot water, a bath or shower, and an indoor flushing toilet. Five per cent of all households in the EU had to do without at least one of these amenities, but this was the plight of 9% of households of people aged 65 and over. As for elderly people living on their own, 12% of them must do without at least one basic amenity - usually hot water. This was the case as regards 2% of the elderly in the UK and the Netherlands and 54% in Portugal.
In 1999, despite their problems, elderly people in the European Union complained less about their accomodation than younger ones, even though elderly people living alone were more dissatisfied than the others. Just 16% of people aged 65 and over in the EU claimed to be unhappy with their accomodation, as compared to 18% of Europeans aged 16 and over.