Posted by: Jules Birch03/12/2009
It may have an unfortunate acronym that conjures images of dismal singalong sessions and bingo but the Housing Our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) picked a good day to publish its call for action.
While the Care Quality Commission tells eight local authorities they must urgently improve their social care services for adults and warns that one in four care homes are adequate at best, residents of homes their councils’ decision to remove their live-in wardens in the High Court.
Both developments illustrate the complexity of housing provision for older people and the way it has to cope with a whole spectrum of care - which can only increase as millions more of us get older - and the need for a much more ambitious strategy in future that creates many more options than staying put in an unsuitable home or going into a home.
As HAPPI’s report today argues,, that should be a national priority. That’s not because of what the statistics say about the future - the number of over-60s is projected to increase by 7m in the next 25 years and more than half of the babies born now will live to be 100 - but because it can help improve the housing system as a whole.
The panel concludes that while action is being taken to improve the quality of life of the ‘older old’, little is being done that appeals to the ‘younger old’ with lesser care needs, who comprise the majority of the over-65s. They constitute a ‘massive, growing and unsatisfied market’ and yet already have more than £600bn worth of housing equity.
Giving them a desirable alternative to an existing home and garden that may have become a burden would deliver wider benefits too, the panel points out. Some 37% of UK households under-occupy and half of those (3.3m) are in the 50-69 age group.
The panel found plenty of inspiring examples in visits to European housing schemes for older people and identifies the key design elements for a new generation of schemes here - not just space and flexibility inside, but balconies and outside space, shared facilities and hubs and not just the homes but places too.
Its a message that should be heard loud and clear by central and local government, housing associations, developers and architects - and by older (and younger) people too.
From Inside edge
Housing commentator Jules Birch puts the latest news in context