Heatwaves – a hot topic

After such a wet winter, a bit of sun may sound like no bad thing, but people often underestimate the effect of high temperatures on older people: the 2003 heatwave led to an alarming 22 per cent increase in mortality among people 75+ in England and Wales. So I was very pleased to be invited to a roundtable held by the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, as part of their Inquiry into Heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change.

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‘Housing in Later Life’ – one size fits all won’t work

HousesThe launch of  a new Age UK report, ‘Housing in Later Life’, coincides with several important policy developments which are likely to impact on the housing options open to all older people, both now and in the future.

Continue reading “‘Housing in Later Life’ – one size fits all won’t work”

Guest blog – Housing standards and the ageing population

This blog was contributed by Paul Gamble, Chief Executive of Habinteg Housing Association

Effective housing policies will make or break the UK’s ability to meet the challenges posed by our ageing population. Building homes that remain accessible for all stages of a person’s life and can be adapted easily, taking into account diverse and changing need, just makes sense.

Habinteg and Age UK have both contributed to the Government’s review of housing standards consultation and made the case for national standards that increase the supply of accessible homes. The new three tiered approach recommended by the Government needs to prioritise access issues.  Without this local and national commitment, the homes of the future will simply not provide for the needs of the increasing number of older and disabled people in the UK.

Photo: Ell Brown (Creative Commons)
Photo: Ell Brown (Creative Commons)

An ageing population

The projections could not be clearer. By 2030, one in three people in the UK will be aged over 55 with the number of disabled people estimated to rise to 4.6million by 2041.

People want to age in their own homes as independently as possible, for as long as they are able. Continue reading “Guest blog – Housing standards and the ageing population”

Housing inequality and older people

Does housing wealth really have untapped potential to fund care and support options for older people? Recently Age UK held a policy seminar on housing inequality among older people to consider this and a number of other related questions, with the help of some leading experts. The conclusions they drew seem to challenge a number of faulty assumptions about housing wealth – assumptions that are shaping the thinking of policy makers. Dr Beverly Searle of St. Andrew’s University offered an alternative and more complex picture of the distribution of housing prosperity in England and the implications for policy.

167x167_older-asian-cplDr Searle described dramatic geographical variations in the location of housing wealth – linked to house prices – which determine the equity available to older people and the choices they can make. Dr Searle found that 42% of housing wealth is concentrated in London and the South East, while 20% is located in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West combined. Only 3% of housing wealth is found in North East.  These inequalities mean that some housing and care options will only be available in affluent places, while choices for older people in poorer areas decline.

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Can we improve the quality of new homes for future generations?

The Government has now released its long-awaited consultation paper on building standards. So far the press have mainly focused on space standards, rather than the implications for accessibility. The Government’s review considers several options to make progress, while recognising the challenges of a rapidly ageing society. The main proposal on accessibility is to establish three levels for building standards to take account of differences in local housing need. At the moment, Part M of the building regulations determines the ‘visitabilty’ of new homes. This covers areas such as level step free entrance and floor, and having a downstairs loo. The Government propose that this should remain a baseline standard that applies to all housing.

At the same time they suggest, as one option, an ‘intermediate’ second level standard that could be based on the lifetime homes standard and a third level for specialist wheelchair accessible housing. This would mean that the number of homes built to either the prescribed ‘lifetime homes’ or wheelchair access levels 440x210-woman-leaning-on-fireplacewould be determined by projected local demand, following a local authority’s assessment.  While giving local authorities flexibility it would establish a consistent standard at each of the suggested levels to reduce the cost and complexity of the variety of different local requirements, which are applied at the moment. Continue reading “Can we improve the quality of new homes for future generations?”

More cities sign up as Age Friendly Cities

This blog was contributed by Emily Georghiou, Age UK’s Public Affairs Adviser – Age Action. 

I recently had the privilege to attend the 2013 signing of the Dublin Declaration on Age Friendly Cities and Communities on behalf of Age UK. Over 40 mayors and representatives were present from over 60 cities and municipalities across Europe, all committed to making their localities great places to grow old.

photoThe Dublin Declaration was originally signed in 2011, during the 1st International Conference on Age Friendly Cities.

Building on this and timed to coincide with the Irish Presidency and EU Summit on Active and Healthy Ageing, the Dublin Declaration 2013 includes a new EU pledge to uphold a set of principles to measure, benchmark and drive future development of age friendly cities. Continue reading “More cities sign up as Age Friendly Cities”

Ready for ageing?

Reablement photo by Philippe Leroyer

All too often, our ageing population is represented as an unmitigated disaster for the nation and the words ‘ticking timebomb’ appear with monotonous regularity.

A new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change offers a refreshing change of perspective. It recognises that ‘longer lives represent progress, and the changes do not mean a great economic or general fiscal crisis’. But it also sets out a number of challenges facing us – and some thoughtful solutions for change.

The Committee, chaired by Lord Filkin, called the nation ‘woefully unprepared’ for the changes ahead and recommended a number of actions for all of us. The Government is challenged to set out its vision for public services in an ageing society in a White Paper.

In particular, the report rightly recognises the increased strain on health and social care and calls for greater integration and much more focus on prevention, early diagnosis and managing long-term conditions, with patients fully engaged in decision-making. Age UK agrees. Continue reading “Ready for ageing?”