Better homes for ageing should be ‘high’ on health agenda

“At a time of unprecedented demographic change, it is critical that housing and health & social care policies all address population ageing.”

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Launched at the Housing & Ageing summit today (22nd July), a new manifesto reinforces the need for stronger links between the health and housing agendas.

Published by the Housing and Ageing Alliance, members include that of Age UK, Care & Repair England, the Chartered Institute of Housing, National Housing Federation and Independent Age, with a collective view that homes, communities and housing related services should be designed in ways that enable choice and independence in later life.

The report, titled ‘Time for Action’, highlights how in a time of “unprecedented demographic change”, better housing for ageing can be the key in easing demand and cost on NHS services.

According to the report, older people are the main users of both hospital and primary care, with risk of falls significantly affected by housing characteristics and the wider built environment.

As reported by 24housing, more than 630,000 households could be forced out of their privately rented homes because they can’t afford the rent, with a new Parliamentary inquiry estimating more than one million low cost rented homes will be needed to adequately house older people by the late 2040s.

That’s an average of 38,000 homes a year.

As outlined, today’s Ageing Alliance manifesto urges the need for direct capital investment to facilitate infrastructure, regeneration and housing growth to address the undersupply of housing for the ageing population.

Also highlighted is the need for a stronger National Planning Policy Framework – making it a legal requirement for all local plans to deliver inclusive homes and neighbourhoods.

Referencing wider statistics, households headed by someone aged 65 years and over are projected to account for 88% of the total growth in households between 2016 and 2041.

According to the manifesto, significant equity in older people’s housing is increasingly seen by policy makers as a “potential solution” to a range of social issues e.g. meeting the costs of later life care, topping up pensions and supporting younger generations.

However, the report highlights that there is a “greater diversity” of economic circumstances amongst older people – including that an uneven use of home equity geographically with over half concentrated in London and the south east region.

“Safe, warm, accessible housing in decent neighbourhoods enables older people to live fulfilling and independent lives for longer, and contributes to their health and wellbeing”, the report continues.

As outlined in reports, the integration of services across social care, housing and health can not only provide more cost-effective solutions for individuals, but also reduce the overall cost of social care through preventing or delaying the need for more “costly” care.

It is also advised that the integration of services can:

  • Offer more attractive and flexible options to older people
  • Housing and practical housing support services can prevent the need for higher
    levels of care
  • Present a shift to preventing and reducing /delaying the need for social care is critical to
    sustaining public services at a time of fiscal constraints
  • Provide accessible, warm, decent housing is a fundamental contributor to enabling
    people to remain living well and independently at home
  • Enable home adaptations and assistive technology to play an important role in helping
    older people to live independently at home
  • Ensure specialist housing and its community facilities can support activities that help
    to engage older people and address social isolation and loneliness

“Remaining connected to local networks and involvement in local activities helps to prevent the loneliness and isolation that can increase with age.

“Housing, housing related support, neighbourhood facilities & community activities all play a significant role in enabling older people to age well, be resilient to change and live independently”, the report concludes.

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