It is a well-known fact that we have an ageing population. But what steps are we taking to ensure that the housing on offer for older people now and in the future is suitable?
We decided to examine this topic because housing in later life is important: people’s housing needs and preferences often change as they grow older and they may want to make changes to how and where they live. Furthermore, an appropriate, comfortable and well-located home can improve a person’s physical and mental health, wellbeing, social life and independence, while the converse can have a detrimental effect.
Like any other age group, older people are diverse and their housing needs and options are similarly varied, reflecting their age, tenure, geographical location, income, equity, health and individual preferences. We found that this gives rise to a range of issues—from home maintenance, adaptations and repairs, to access to financial advice, and to housing supply—all of which are reflected in this report.
We believe that this broad and complex subject calls for a national strategy which brings together and improves the policy on housing for older people, and encompasses the recommendations made in this report. The key recommendations are as follows:
Central to the national strategy is wider availability of housing advice and information to help older people make informed and timely choices about how and where they live.
Most older people do not plan to move and wish to stay in their current home as long as possible. HIAs and handyperson services, undertaking small repairs, maintenance and adaptations, have a significant role to play in ensuring that the homes of those who ‘stay put’ are comfortable, healthy and safe.
Many older people would like to move in later life but often the practical, financial and emotional aspects of moving home prevent or delay them from doing so.
National and local planning policy should give greater encouragement to the development of housing for older people. Older people who wish to move should be able to choose from a wide range of housing to accommodate their needs and preferences. However, the evidence we heard suggested there was a shortage of desirable mainstream, accessible and specialist housing and bungalows in both the private and social sectors.
Accessible and specialist homes are a key to housing an ageing population. Specialist housing, particularly extra care housing, can promote the health and well-being of older people and their carers. However, concerns about the costs related to this type of housing and lenders’ reluctance to provide mortgage finance for specialist housing may prevent older people from purchasing this type of property.
The right kind of housing can keep older people healthy, support them to live independently and in the longer-term reduce the need for home care or residential care and lead to savings in health and social care budgets. The national strategy should take full account of this and be closely linked with the forthcoming social care green paper.
8 February 2018