Housing is one of the eight core areas of an Age Friendly Community. In such communities., older people will feel valued, included, and respected. But the drive towards age friendly communities benefits all ages by enabling active participation in community activities and treating all ages with respect.
Consideration of housing for older people has too often focussed on sheltered accommodation, extra care and specialist provision. While these forms are important considerations for a proportion of the population, wider consideration needs to be given to the wide range of housing solutions for older people across all tenures as part of meeting local housing needs for the total population.
Nearly 40% of the Welsh Population is aged over 50. In such a diverse and significant group aspirations will differ. But most will share the wish to have a suitable, safe, high quality, warm and affordable home in a community of their choice. Improving housing provision generally will improve housing conditions for this 40% of the population. There is clear evidence about the link between poor quality housing and ill-health.
Many documents and studies have been produced on the housing needs of older people. Most recently by the Welsh Government in “Age Friendly Wales: Our Strategy for an Ageing Society” was published in October 2021 and says in respect of housing:
“Prosperity for All recognises the bedrock of living well, is a good quality affordable home. Suitable housing can become increasingly important as we age, our needs change and we spend more time at home. However, in planning for an ageing population, it is vital to consider the housing needs and aspirations of people of all ages”.
A report published by Welsh Government in January 2017 was produced by an Expert Group on Housing an Ageing Population in Wales. Amongst other matters, the Report stressed the need for a consistent approach to meeting the housing needs of an ageing population in Wales; ensure the assessment of housing needs is an integral part of well-being plans and N.H.S. requirements with a view to maximising the preventative contribution of housing. The report advocates local housing needs assessments be carried out as an integral element of local authorities’ well-being plans.
Addressing climate change is a priority for the World. Long-term investment in sustainable housing must be given priority. It will produce a significant reduction in Wales’s carbon output and a decrease in fuel poverty. New build social housing must be built to the highest environmental standards and older stock upgraded to meet low carbon emission standards.
The Expert Group report refers to a study that nearly 20% of people aged 50+ would like to move. Facilitated moving can have a place in a housing strategy, but moving can be a major life change. Retrofit can assist in improving housing condition to obviate a driver in the wish to move. Retrofit can also improve conditions for the substantial majority who wish to remain in their homes. Suitable trained staff resources must be devoted by landlords to working through the process of retrofitting to ensure tenants wishes are fully met in the retrofit process.
Research from Swansea University (2021) has supported the need for preventative housing support and found that older people who receive housing support services (such as Care and Repair) have a reduced risk of falling, reduced risk of being admitted to hospital and a reduced or delayed need for admission to a residential care home.
The research has confirmed that rapid response housing adaptations support effective hospital discharges and reduce re-admissions. It also asserts that larger housing adaptations support falls prevention and independent living, preventing damp, and tackling cold homes, all of which protect the health and well-being of older people.
What does C.O.P.A want to see happen?
- Local housing needs assessments be carried out as an integral element of local authorities’ well-being plans.
- These local housing needs assessments to involve fully people over 50 and the groups representing them.
- Any proposals for new housing or for significant redevelopment across all tenures must incorporate the eight core areas of the Age Friendly Communities concept.
- Any new housing developments must be sustainable housing and be built to the highest environmental standards. C.O.P.A. welcomes the Innovative Housing Programme, providing new carbon neutral homes.
- C.O.P.A. also welcomes the recent £150m programme to retrofit existing social housing. But existing tenants must be supported in the retrofit process
- There needs to be regular ongoing audits/assessment of the way contractors behave during and retrofit/refurbishment. For example, not making the first step of upgrading a bathroom the removal of the only available toilet
- and have the informed options to choose the scale of the package to suit their individual needs and wishes. For owner occupiers, the Welsh Government must offer financial incentives to older people willing to adapt their homes with low carbon options and met tenants’ aspirations and needs.
- Consultation on the creation and scope of a national safety net programme for vulnerable older homeowners that should be made available
- Practical measures to improve housing for older people that COPA want to see happen include:
- Prioritise improved housing conditions for older people across Wales
- Introduction of a Wales Help to Stay, Help to Move” service
- Expansion of the availability and equitable access to aids and adaptations schemes
- Policies and local measures to prevent older people having to move away from their local community when they are being re-housed.
- Safe, cost-effective and transparent equity release schemes in Wales that older people can rely on and get advice about
- More viable, suitable and innovative accommodation options for older people as they age to be developed
- Monitoring of the effectiveness of the Life Time Housing Standards concept
- Make available sustainable house decluttering schemes that will reduce health and safety risks in the home for older people and improve their mental health and well-being
- Action Plan to focus on specialist housing/accommodation with care (care homes and care at home, extra care, sheltered and supported accommodation, residential homes) – see Annex A
Cymru Older People’s Alliance (Registered Charity 1174518)
c/o Age Cymru Offices, Mariners House, Trident Court, East Moors Road, Cardiff, CF24 5TD Web site: www.copacharity.com Also, on Facebook
January 2022 (Agreed at AGM on 20/1/22)