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30,000 later living homes needed a year

Words: Laura Edgar
Older people's housing

Former Treasury economist Chris Walker has called for 30,000 later living homes to be built each year as people in Britain are living for longer.

He has made the call in light of new research suggesting that the NHS is “overwhelmed” by nearly a million extra older people suffering injuries after falling.

The government has forecast that there will be five million people aged over 80 by 2032, up from around 3.2 million today.

The study, by Homes for Later Living, a consortium of providers of housing for older people, states that there is a link between good-quality housing and physical and mental health outcomes for older people.

Walker's report – Healthier and Happier – states that the number of people aged 80 or over who will suffer a fall is expected to rise from 1.6 million to 2.5 million by 2032, which will see NHS costs of treating such incidents to £2 billion a year.

More needs to be done to focus on the link between poor health and the quality of housing available to people in later life, said Walker. He highlights in the report the “severe shortage” of housing being built specifically for the growing numbers of retirees – the result being that many older people are often living alone in mainstream housing that is unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy, and this is where they are most at risk from falls, social isolation and dementia.

Other findings in the report include:

  • People living in housing designed for later life have a reduced risk of health challenges, which contributes to the NHS and social care services saving around £3,500 a year.
  • Building 30,000 more retirement houses every year for the next 10 years, meeting the estimated demand, would generate fiscal savings across the NHS and social services of £2.1 billion annually.

John Slaughter, of Homes for Later Living, said: “There is currently a severe shortage of suitable housing for the growing numbers of people in retirement. The consequences are severe, both to the NHS, which will be under increased financial pressure from falls related injuries, and to individuals who are often living alone in mainstream housing that is unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy. This is where they are most likely to suffer from physical and mental health problems."

David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “Councils are working hard to meet the housing needs of older people, including working with developers to offer suitably designed and affordable specialist housing. Councils need to be given greater planning powers and resources to hold developers to account, ensuring they build the right homes in the right places with the required infrastructure needed by different groups within local communities.

“But it is crucial to acknowledge that the majority of older people will live in existing housing. The government needs to continue to invest in supporting the adaptation of homes to meet the needs of people as their circumstances change, keep older people safe and independent in their homes and prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and care homes.

“However, for councils to be able to do more, the Disabled Facilities Grant needs to be fully funded to keep pace with future demand and be easier for people to access.”

Healthier and Happier can be found on the Homes for Later Living website (pdf).

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