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Housing and planning should be aligned with health care

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing for older people / iStock-172713817

Local leaders need to work together to identify a single plan and budget for housing, health and social care to better support older people, according to a report.

For the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), the Design Council and the Centre for Ageing Better, which collaborated on writing the report, these should be embedded in planning policy frameworks, sustainability and transformation partnerships, integrated care systems, joint strategy needs assessments and NHS plans.

This could be supported by a long-term (20-year) funding settlement that would provide market confidence for new financing and development models.

Further to this, the government should ensure that the green paper on Care for Older People highlights a common goal to align health, housing and care systems around a shared objective to ensure that people can live independently in their own home as they age.

The 100-year Life: The Role of Housing, Planning and Design considers four key areas: integrating housing alongside health and care; creating age-friendly communities; making finance more flexible; and engaging with older people in designing news products – from kitchens to transport.

It recommends that local and neighbourhood plans should include design principles that create age-friendly environments. The report says this may include local planning authorities stating that if an application is to be approved, an application must incorporate age-friendly housing and environments.

Local areas can learn from the growing UK age-friendly network of communities. Representatives from across the UK are working together to bring about change in the way that cities respond to population ageing.

The group of organisations insist that age-friendly approaches should be standard practice everywhere, but that leadership and skills development are required to achieve this. The report states that the government should invest in training to support those involved in designing age-friendly environments “to ensure a clear and shared understanding of how to deliver the right homes in the right places, and to collate and share good practice”.

In addition, housebuilders should work to age-friendly criteria, applying what the evidence suggests works to make homes adaptable and accessible.

Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The government’s focus on supporting people in later life is a golden opportunity to align policy on health, housing and care around the goal of helping us to live independently in a home and community that meets our needs. We must build homes that are accessible and adaptable to meet the needs of current and future generations, and work with developers and local authorities to create age-friendly environments across the UK.

“We also need to think innovatively about how we use funding like the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to ensure speedy access to home adaptations, make sure people have the flexibility to borrow money, and enable them to use their personal care budgets in a way that works best for them."

The report can be found on the Social Care Institute for Excellence website.

Image credit | iStock