Lack of age-friendly homes exposes ‘hidden housing crisis’

RIBA says demographics reinforce a need for mainstreaming age-friendly design.

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England’s ‘hidden housing crisis’ is exposed in the severe lack of age-friendly homes – with demographics defining a quarter of the English population aged over 60 within five years.

Yet new housing is being built with little regard to the needs of this ageing population, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) says.

A new RIBA’s report emphasises the importance of “well-designed, purpose built” new homes that enable people to play a more active role in their communities as they age.

Including new data from Centre for Towns and ComRes for RIBA, A home for the ages: Planning for the future through age-friendly design reveals:

  • Populations in towns and villages all over the country, inland and coastal, have aged significantly in the last 40 years – a trend that is set to continue
  • The cost to the NHS of inappropriate housing for people over-55 is projected to reach £1billion per year by 2041 in first year treatment alone
  • A quarter of over 55s are currently considering moving home but over half feel that the housing options available are inadequate
  • Demand for age-friendly housing outstrips supply

“This is England’s hidden housing crisis – we must encourage more innovation and plan properly for the future,” said RIBA President Ben Derbyshire.

“Local authorities have largely ignored this need and opportunity, focusing instead on basic, short-term solutions.

“Older people should not feel that they need to move if they don’t want to, but they should have options available to them.

“We urge policy makers and local authorities to modernise their thinking on housing and consider the differing needs in this country,” he said.

RIBA pitches age-friendly design brings wide positive impacts for all generations; enabling people to keep socially and economically active for longer and reducing dependence on public services.

Failure to plan for an older population is putting a huge strain on the public purse due to the health and social care costs of inappropriate housing, and fails to realise the untapped potential to the economy of supporting people to relocate. The RIBA is calling on the UK Government and the construction sector to tackle this ‘hidden’ housing crisis.

The RIBA report recommends:

  • ‘Mainstreaming’ age-friendly design so that all new build housing is accessible and adaptable
  • Removing barriers in the planning system that restrict the delivery of age-friendly homes
  • Providing better information and support for people who want to move home, including signposting accessible housing; and piloting fiscal incentives to support older people to move home
  • Ensuring better integrated public services so that people can be more actively engaged in living, working and socialising in their own communities
  • Introducing Government funded design awareness training for planners and local councillors and new settlement programmes incorporating Lifetime Neighbourhood principles.

“We urgently need to get to grips with the scale of the challenge facing us, an aging population and a widespread failure to understand and deliver the type of housing we need is causing a crisis and our aging towns are at the sharp end.

“We urgently need to get to grips with the scale of the challenge facing us, an aging population and a widespread failure to understand and deliver the type of housing we need is causing a crisis and our aging towns are at the sharp end,” said Co-founder of Centre for Towns Lisa Nandy MP.

“A decent, suitable home in your own community is one of the best ways to combat loneliness and prevent conditions like dementia from deteriorating.

“Communities matter, we need to treat this report as a wake-up call and ensure they are shaped in the interests of the people who live in them,” she said.

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