Oh, Grandma, what a big housing problem you've got…
We all know how medical care, mindfulness of health, technology and financial awareness are all keeping us alive longer. Adult social care is an issue as far as funding is concerned – and a new report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has flagged up an even bigger issue: housing.
The report crystallises the how and why (and how much) of caring for our elders – and the figures we face. Did you know that the number of over-60s worldwide will more than double by 2050, (and more than triple by 2100)? The Local Government Association’s calculations read like those of a Local Plan in themselves – Britain needs to build 400,000 more age-appropriate homes in under 20 years to handle the situation.
What could these homes look like? They can’t necessarily be cookie-cutter cottages or old folks homes. Seniors of today have always known choice, and are renowned for recognising what they want and going out there to get it: and moreover, many don’t really see themselves as “old” and are prepared to keep on working, living in cities, participating in their communities and the economy.
On the flip side, many chronic medical conditions are more manageable than in former years, so more people will need the safety net of sophisticated medical facilities. Dementia units, too, are increasingly required as treatments advance. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach.
Settlements that take a flexible approach and can evolve and adapt to successive waves of residents are called for: and it’s a challenge for the developers. Care for the frail, cater for the hearty and look to the future as the next generation of seniors brings their needs and expectations to the table.
Care villages are one possible innovation – they are big in the States, Canada and China, and they mix independent living with more sheltered, clinically-geared units. And any mix of village living, co-living, smart technology and a green aspect would be an interesting challenge for developers and designers, and not just those whose MO is to build retirement properties.
Bringing developments for the elderly even further into the mainstream, with incentives and encouragement for the builders, could mirror the way first-time buyers are targeted and redraw the urban environment. Funding and its associated frameworks could admittedly be more difficult to navigate, especially where tax is involved – though there have been serious discussions about helpful things like stamp duty relief and cashbacks for downsizers.
Nobody can stop time or the ageing process – but if there is a chance of working with them, housing older people safely, appropriately and thoughtfully, it could have great effects on society: one where older people play an integrated respected part. If Grandma’s happy, we might all be happy.
The full report on housing for Older People can be seen here.
This article was written by Elizabeth Thomas, Account Executive at MPC.