Interview with the Vice-major of the City of Rotterdam

12 April 2022 International kick-off event of the HOPE project

It’s a great opportunity for the HOPE partnership and for other local and regional authorities at international level to benefit from your expertise as Alderman of the city of Rotterdam. We would be most interested by insights of the elderly care and climate adaptation policies of Rotterdam.

What does the climate subject “heat” mean to you?

Extreme heat directly affects the health and safety of our elderly residents in particular. That is why it is important that we explore what we can and should do as local government to be prepared for it. One thing is clear: we cannot do it alone as a local government; preparedness is something we really need to develop in cooperation with the elderly themselves, and together with the care and welfare organizations.

Why do you think the HOPE project is important for the city of Rotterdam?

Rotterdam has always been a young city, as we have so many people that see the chances that Rotterdam offers. Despite this, the city continues to get older, and the number of senior citizens in Rotterdam is growing. By 2035, 1 in 5 Rotterdammers will be 65 years of age or older. The number of over-75s in particular will increase. As a government, we must anticipate this. We simply cannot abandon all those elderly people. Also our local healthcare system would become overburdened. Therefore, it is good that HOPE stimulates us to discuss this theme and explore useful options.

What are the most important topics for you in relation to HOPE?

Living at home longer

In the Netherlands, only 6% of the elderly stay in a nursing home. Older adults would like to live independently for as long as possible. The need for independent housing with appropriate care and facilities is therefore increasing. We need to prepare the city for this development and make sure Rotterdam is a city where you can continue to live comfortably and safely at home for as long as possible. Where you can stay active, meet people, and where appropriate care and support is always close-by. To prepare the city for this development, the municipality developed the program ‘Rotterdam Older and Wiser’. The welfare organizations visit the over-75s at home and organize activities for healthy aging. There are health consultation hours.

Age-friendly neighbourhoods and activities

In a “senior-friendly neighbourhood”, organizations for care and welfare, housing corporations, the municipality, market parties and senior citizens work closely together. One example is the HomePlus Apartments. In a HomePlus flat, elderly people live independently, but there is also care and support. They support family caregivers. I imagine that during a heat wave, people in such a senior friendly neighbourhood will be able to support each other more easily, and the caregivers will be more aware of how to respond to extreme weather conditions.

Suitable housing

In senior-friendly neighbourhoods, the relevant parties are also looking at what will be built in the area in the coming years, and how it will become an attractive area for seniors. In February 2020, 42 parties - the municipality, housing corporations, care and welfare organizations, developers, investors and a health insurer – together signed the Langer Thuis agreement, which runs at least until 2025. They agreed to work together to create more suitable housing for seniors and to develop innovative housing and care concepts. The HomePlus flats are a good example of this. The homes and the outdoor space must certainly also be equipped to provide relief from the heat.

It is quite unusual to involve the domain of care in the local climate approach. How do you manage?

Rotterdam indeed is one of the first large cities in the Netherlands to create a local heat plan. The Rotterdam heat-plan is integrated in a broader climate adaptation program, called ‘WeatherWise’. The WeatherWise program broadened its focus from water safety to other urgent climate issues like heat and drought, and from the public also to the private domain. The relatively new focus on heat results in involvement of private care and wellbeing organisations and public health in climate adaptation plans. I am very glad with that. And I am especially glad that, thanks to the HOPE project, our University of Applied Sciences is on board. Students in care-education get the opportunity to put their climate-worries into action in their professional role.

What would you like to pass on to aldermen in other cities?

Work together with all the relevant parties in your city and don’t forget to do it together with the elderly. Explore how to create senior-friendly neighbourhoods, in which housing, welfare, and heathcare all come together. This must include protections against heat. In this way the elderly can continue to live comfortably and safely at home in our cities.

foto ChristineEskes3

Christine Eskes

Vice-Mayor, city of Rotterdam

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