It’s official. The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that we are living even longer and there is no sign that the upward march is set to reverse any time soon.
So - is housing prepared?
Consider for a moment the population profile when much of the current housing stock was built. A fifth (19.7%) of today’s homes were built before 1919, and a further 37% between 1920 and 1964. Life expectancy in 1918 was 44 years for men, 50 years for women.
In the first half of the 20th century most people died before they faced the long-term health and related physical problems that most of us will experience in later life. Over a third of people over 65 have mobility problems and just over a quarter have eyesight difficulties. We therefore clearly need a built environment that can accommodate loss of physical function.
When it comes to building special housing for older people the numbers have remained remarkably stagnant. This means that even with more than 7 million older households, and the prospect of double the number of people over 85 in under a decade, the current estimated number of specialist housing units is only around 500,000.
So what is needed? The Housing & Ageing Alliance proposes starting with three initial steps:
- Make sure that people are able to adapt to their homes, either using their own resources or with financial help for those on low incomes, and with good information about best options;
- Recognise diversity and build a variety of new specialist housing for older people to meet a wide range of preferences and needs;
- Every home built will be a precious resource, so build all new homes to lifetime, adaptable standards.
Don’t forget - this is all our futures.
Sue Adams is chair of the Housing and Ageing Alliance.
This article was first published on insidehousing.co.uk