Sector urged to invest in ‘low-cost, huge impact’ home adaptations

Centre for Aging Better says action needed, as a rise in older households corresponds with a fall in basic housing standards.


With millions of older people ‘trapped’ in unsuitable homes, the Centre for Aging Better wants sector-wide investment in low-cost, huge impact adaptations.

The latest English Housing Survey confirms there has been a 1.1 million increase in households occupied by someone aged 65 and over in the last decade, a 20% rise compared to an increase of just 61,000 (1.5%) in households aged 16 to 34 since 2008.

Also shown is a steady upturn in the number of older people renting privately, with 414,000 (6.3%) of over-65s renting privately compared to 257,000 (4.7%) a decade ago – an increase of 61%.

This is mirrored by a drop in the number of older people renting in the social sector, falling from 1.12 million (20%) to just over a million today (16%).

Now, the organisation is calling on government, local authorities, housing associations and private landlords to do more to help people in later life to live independently and safely in their own home.

While the Centre acknowledges reductions since 2008 in the number of homes that don’t meet decent homes standards, it cites the survey stats as showing an unacceptable number of people living in poor housing conditions.

Dr Rachael Docking, senior evidence manager, Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Today’s figures should be a wake-up call for the whole housing sector.

“As it stands, we are failing to do what’s needed to help people to live independently and in their own home – millions of older people are trapped in unsuitable homes which are cold, in disrepair and inaccessible.

According to the survey:

  • More than a fifth of homes in which the oldest person is 75 or older do not meet the national decent homes standard
  • Some 11.8% of over-75s homes have category 1 hazards (a hazard that poses a serious threat to the health or safety of people living in or visiting your home)
  • 6.3% of over-75s’ homes have excess cold, with 12.7% without boilers.

In the private-rented sector, more than one in three (35.9%) of over-65s households are considered ‘poor housing’ – a home that has serious damp or mould, is non-decent, or has substantial disrepair.

Many of today’s over-75s have lived in the same non-decent home for more than 15 years. Nearly half (47%) of the homes in which over-75s live that are in disrepair would cost nothing to repair, and over a third (35.6%) would cost less than £1 per 20 square metres.

The Centre references its own research as showing that low-cost home adaptations can have a huge impact on a person’s health, wellbeing and independence.

“This is especially true when people have a say on what changes are made to their homes and they meet both the functional and emotional needs of the individual,” said Docking.

“Where housing is unsuitable, people often end up using potentially dangerous coping strategies such as limiting food and drink to avoid using the bathroom, using baby wipes instead of bathing, and sleeping on the sofa.

“With the average age of households on the rise and a continuing rise in private renting, we need to take urgent action to improve our current housing stock and make sure every new home built is fit-for-purpose, accessible and adaptable, and above all of good quality and a fair price,” she said.