Report reveals extent of poor housing on health of elderly

The number of people aged 80 or over suffering falls is expected to rise to 2.5 million by 2032.

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A new Homes for Later Living report has today (13th September) revealed the extent to which poor health can be affected by the quality of housing available to people in later life.

The report, authored by former Treasury economist Chris Walker, says the NHS could be overwhelmed by nearly one million extra older people suffering from fall related injuries by 2032 – with the total cost to the UK’s health services rising to around £2bn a year.

Aligning with latest government forecasts, the number of people aged over 80 is set to rise from around 3.2 million today to five million in 2032.

Meanwhile, the number of people aged 100 or over has increased by 85% over the last 15 years, with 14,430 centenarians living in the UK.

To combat this, the report states that more needs to be done to focus on the link between poor health and the quality of housing available to people in later life – highlighting a ‘severe shortage’ of housing built specifically for the growing numbers of retirees.

The result is that many older people are often living alone in mainstream housing that is unsafe, unsuitable, and unhealthy, and this is where they are most likely to suffer from falls, social isolation, and dementia.

The reports key findings also include:

  • Each person living in housing specifically designed for later life enjoys a reduced risk of health challenges, contributing to fiscal savings to the NHS and social care services of £3,500 per year
  • Those in specialist housing are half as likely to have falls with resulting fractures, injuries, and costly inpatient bed stays
  • Based on a selection of established national wellbeing criteria such as happiness and life satisfaction, an average person aged 80 feels as good as someone 10 years younger after moving from mainstream housing to housing specially designed for later living

The report also urges the build of 30,000 more retirement housing dwellings every year for the next 10 years – projected to generate fiscal savings across the NHS and social services of £2.1bn annually.

As reported by 24housing, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report revealed that more than 630,000 households could be forced out of their private-rented homes because they can’t afford the rent, with an inquiry estimating more than one million low-cost rented homes will be needed to adequately house older people by the late 2040s.

John Slaughter, of Homes for Later Living, said: “There is currently a severe shortage of suitable housing for the growing numbers of people in retirement.

“The consequences are severe, both to the NHS, which will be under increased financial pressure from falls related injuries, and to individuals who are often living alone in mainstream housing that is unsafe, unsuitable, and unhealthy.

“This is where they are most likely to suffer from physical and mental health problems.”

Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said that although councils are working hard to meet the housing needs of older people, “greater planning powers are needed to ensure they build the right homes in the right places.”

“It is crucial to acknowledge that most older people will live in existing housing. The government needs to continue to invest in supporting the adaptation of homes to meet the needs of people as their circumstances change, keep older people safe and independent in their homes, and prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and care homes.

“However, for councils to be able to do more, the Disabled Facilities Grant needs to be fully funded to keep pace with future demand and be easier for people to access.”

Cllr Tom Beattie, District Councils’ Network spokesperson for Better Lives, added: “Good quality housing is absolutely critical to supporting everybody’s health and wellbeing, and district councils are committed to making sure people are safe and well at home.

“However, existing housing stock is not suitable for meeting the needs of people as they get older, increasing the risk of falls in the home.

“This is why the government needs to increase the size of the Disabled Facilities Grant so districts have the funding to provide the home adaptations older people need and rely on.

“With more than 70% of future households including someone over the age of 65, it is important that we build more homes which support people to age well, by giving districts more powers to build the homes our communities need.”

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