Tackling the challenges of housing for an ageing population

With an ageing population and a lack of available and suitable housing stock, the question must be asked, where will people live when they reach retirement age? As things stand, the majority of older people continue to live in mainstream housing, with only 0.6 per cent of over 65s living in ‘housing with care’ – despite the fact that it is estimated over half of general needs tenants belong to this demographic.

There are a number of reasons for over 65s choosing to remain in their own homes, but we will focus on two of them. Firstly, there is a lack of suitable housing alternatives available for any older people who do want to down-size. Secondly, the prospect of moving into a retirement home is unappealing to many older people. This resistance inadvertently causes housing stock issues for younger generations hoping to buy larger homes.

So how do we go about solving this problem? The answer is surely to build more housing that not only meets the physical needs of older people, but also offers them an appealing place to live.

This has been the focus of a series of reports by the Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation (HAPPI). The reports stress the importance of design aspects such as space, light and ventilation, alongside ensuring that designs are sustainable, so they can be adapted over time to meet the residents’ changing needs.

As well as housing solutions being attractive we need to ensure that older people have access to appropriate amenities – including accessible shops and healthcare facilities – as living a fulfilled and healthy life must be the top priority. This can be achieved by local services and charities working together with developers to ensure housing meets the requirements of the residents.

Recent developments in digital technology can also be utilised to provide remote monitoring or functional improvements to older people’s living spaces, allowing people to continue living independently for longer, reducing their reliance on residential care services.

The most important thing that we need to bear in mind when building housing for older people is that it should reflect their status as a respected and valued member of society. Older people’s housing should be seen as an appealing prospect; one which allows people to maintain their health and independence in later life and allows them to age with dignity.

At Pellings we have extensive experience working on designing and delivering new build and refurbished projects for older people and supported living schemes. See some of our projects here.