Coming together to house an ageing population

Yvonne Castle, 25 October 2022

We are an ageing population. By 2035, the number of people over the age of 60 in England will reach 29% of the entire population. The number of households headed by someone 65 and above will likely more than treble by the late 2040s.

Aging is often accompanied by increased health concerns and a growing reliance on friends, family and carers. Of course for many, this is also accompanied by increasing isolation. Current homes for our residents are not always going to be fit for purpose and making the choices to move from your family home will always be a difficult decision to make. None of this, however, is inevitable.

The Older Persons Housing Group has been set up to help tackle precisely these issues. Providers across the country are working together to make sure their voices are heard and to break down the barriers that are currently stopping us from building the 38,000 new homes per year for older people that are needed to meet future demand. By building more, suitable homes, the choice to move would be easier and decisions could be made earlier. Our residents could then have a much improved quality of life earlier and maybe could avoid some of the pitfalls of not being in the right home, with the right level of care and support at the time that they need it.

Our group is working tirelessly to keep building new homes for older people high on our agenda, as well as our partners and we hope, our government’s. We know we are facing a race against time and these decisions need to be made now, to ensure that suitable homes are available in the future. The number of people in the UK living with dementia, for example, is set to double by 2040. Two thirds do not currently live in specialist housing.

We want to be using positive language when it comes to making a difference as people grow older.  We want people to feel happy, safe and healthy in their homes. That’s why housing colleagues from across the country responded to our survey on the Barriers to Building Older Persons Housing, which we carried out with help from the NHF. The results of the survey are the following asks:

  1. We are asking the government for a national strategy on housing provision for older people so that our housing, local authority, adults and social care colleagues, Homes England and planning partners can link together to provide the homes and the services that older people need.
  2. As part of the strategy, we are calling on the government to introduce a national target for older people’s housing. We know there is not enough housing fit for an ageing population and so this will focus our minds as a collective.
  3. There needs to be sufficient grant rates to support land and build costs and consideration for ring-fenced funding for older people’s housing. We know that communal homes, homes with communal spaces and services for residents to come together to avoid isolation, homes with greater building safety, compliance and maintenance needs cost more money. Homes England grant reflecting these additional costs would be welcomed.
  4. Funding needs to be flexible and so we are asking the government for long-term assurances for revenue as well as capital funding. Many organisations maintaining homes for older people provide the care and support direct themselves. Increasing costs, complexities and the shortage of the labour market is proving to be a challenge.
  5. We are calling for the publication of clear guidance on how housing for older people is considered when calculating the objective assessment of need.

The group has been coming together over the last 12 months with members speaking in parliament to help influence the scope of the government’s planned Task Force for Older Persons. We hope that this task force will come to fruition. And, this group, is there to help share the experiences, the learning, the challenges and the solutions which we believe will help build more homes, fit for people as they age and as they need increasing support.

To find out more about our asks, please have a look at our dedicated resource. If you would like to support our work, please get in touch today.