There is no ‘one size fits all’ response to addressing the housing requirements of older people.
We believe there should be a choice of accessible and easily adaptable properties in vibrant communities, which would provide attractive options for older people looking to age in place and ‘right-size’.
For many older people, ‘specialist’ housing options are unappealing, so we need a greater choice of homes that can adapt to life’s changing needs.
That’s why we’re pleased that the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLG) have released the Housing for Older People report, which contains a range of important recommendations.
Only 7% of housing in England meets basic accessibility standards.
While specialist retirement properties have a role to play, many older people will continue to live in mainstream housing as the population ages.
Building all new homes to suitable accessible and easily adaptable standard (The Building Regulations Part M4 2), as recommended in the recent CLG report, will help to ensure that new housing is inclusive of a wide range of requirements.
Like the committee we are convinced that accessible housing has a significant role to play in successful health and social care delivery.
For example; the accessible, adaptable features of Category 2 homes can help to reduce delayed discharge from hospital, as adaptations can be completed more quickly and cost-effectively.
Accessible, adaptable homes can also help to reduce loneliness by enabling more independence and increasing community participation.
For example, wider doorframes and level access mean that a wheelchair user is able to easily come and go from the property, allowing visits with friends, neighbours or family members.
However, accessible homes must also be accompanied by inclusively designed communities.
Designing homes and spaces which are appropriate for a variety of needs is representative of, and responsive to, the diversity of our population.
We need to make planning for such inclusive design in housing and neighbourhoods far simpler for planning departments if we’re to see the scale of improvement that we need.
So another of the CLG’ committee’s recommendations – that government should collect data on the numbers of accessible homes built – is also very welcome.
Without such basic knowledge planners and national policy makers can’t possibly assess progress and the impact of policies on local provision.
Of course the benefits of accessible homes are not only experienced by older or disabled people.
Whether it be the couple with small children, a young professional having furniture delivered to their first home, or an active retiree grandparent – all can benefit from the features of inclusively designed homes.
To help make this a reality in more communities we hope the CLG report helps to demonstrate the crucial importance of accessibility and inclusion to policy makers, planners and the sector as a whole.