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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Homes fit for ageing, homes fit for caring


We know that we face a huge housing shortage - but we also need to make sure that any homes we build are fit for purpose for our population long into the future, says senior policy and practice officer Sarah Davis.

House drawn in sandAs a society we are ageing, which brings a significant increase in the demand for and costs of both health and care services. Recent Nuffield Trust research demonstrated that health costs start to rise significantly as people hit 50, while the average health cost for someone over 85 is £7,000 a year.

At the same time, more people are caring for family and friends, as pressure on statutory care services comes from growing demand at a time of funding reductions. At the 2011 census, the number of carers had increased to 6.5 million, providing £132 billion in unpaid care  – more than the NHS budget. This trend is likely to continue, including the numbers of those who provide more than 50 hours of care a week.

Whether for a person ageing with complex conditions, or someone caring for an ageing or disabled relative, the condition of the home can be a critical factor in supporting or hindering that person’s health, safety and sense of wellbeing.

Delivering the right adaptation in a timely way can help an older person with limiting conditions to manage their condition and undertake daily tasks as much as possible. It is also a significant factor in helping a carer to provide personal support in a way that is safe for them and the person for whom they care.

But sometimes an adaptation isn’t possible or the right approach for every household - which is why we must also plan strategically about what kind of new housing we deliver as well as the numbers.

Habinteg Housing and Papworth Trust highlight that there are 11.6 million disabled people in Britain, but only six per cent of current housing stock have the basic standards that make them ‘visitable’. We need to ensure that the new homes we develop are accessible, adaptable and with high energy efficiency standards to be fit for an ageing and caring society.

We should include provision of specialist homes within that mix, such as extra care, which can also support those households that are ageing alone. This can help to tackle the impact of social isolation, which has been identified as being as bad for health as 15 cigarettes a day.

We have seen some progress in getting better connections between health, care and housing to support an ageing and caring society – notably the 'Better Care' fund (with increased investment in disabled facilities grants) and the focus on the suitability of the home in care assessments, however variable the application.

But other measures, such as the Housing and Planning Act, might make it harder for local authorities and partners to plan strategically for the housing needs of older households and carers locally. What more can we do as housing professionals, as CIH, to make housing central to the health and wellbeing of an ageing population?

What we think

  • Event: Join in the discussion at CIH’s Homes fit for ageing conference, alongside leading practitioners sharing about their services and experiences
  • At CIH we're keen to hear from local authorities and partners about how they are assessing and planning to meet needs for older people as part of their strategic approach to meeting housing needs. Tell us your story 

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