A reality of “simplistic” policy in a complex society is one of the main arguments that the UK is institutionally ageist, the Housing 21 conference heard.
The University of Sheffield’s Professor David Robinson told delegates in Birmingham that present housing policy is not fit for purpose and “needs to be challenged”.
For Peabody’s Brendan Sarsfield, it’s the overall focus of local authorities on a single issue, rather than a holistic approach that is the biggest problem faced by an ageing population.
“A holistic approach to housing strategy has scope to connect our economy, but that’s just not the reality on the ground,” he said.
Speaking further on housing policy, South Yorkshire Housing chair Professor Ian Cole said that it also tends to be more focused on “those getting onto the ladder, not those exiting”.
“Housing associations need to recognise the power that they can have and step up to the plate in terms of leading this change,” he said.
Cole referenced the work of South Yorkshire Housing in terms of assessing what their residents want, not just assessing their care needs – with a LiveWell at home model supported by Sheffield City council that enables over-55s to live independently in their own home.
However, a question from the floor asked why the age is often set to 55+ for older living, when the state pension age is increasing.
“We need to begin to recognise the changing needs of an ageing population,” said Robinson.
“Identity often triumphs utility in most cases; recent studies show that 80% of those with care needs are reluctant to use a pendant in crisis.
“Accepting that you need support can be difficult especially when most older people are owner occupiers and have lived independently for so long,” he said.
Speaking to 24housing, Housing 21 CEO Dr Bruce Moore emphasised the people-centric approach to the work of the group.
“The sector is people powered by people, and we need to continue to place people at the heart.
“It’s about giving older people an informed choice in terms of the options available to them, not just defining them by their age and feeding into the stigma of retirement living,” he said.