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Terraced housing

The 100-year life – The importance of housing

We need to begin busting myths about housing and ageing, and start focusing on current housing stock.

Following the release of a joint report by SCIE, the Design Council and Ageing Better, Sue Adams, CEO of Care and Repair England, reminds us of the need to think creatively about the housing implications of a 100-year life.

Do you like where you live?

Surprisingly, most of us do, and the older we are the more we like our home. Satisfaction with home and neighbourhood for older people is 94% compared with 86% for other age groups. As Mrs Glass, 91, said to me recently, "If you take my house away, you take part of me."

Thinking creatively about the housing implications of a 100-year life has to start with recognising both the reality of the housing stock, inequality, diversity of later life experience, and the very human attachment to home and place.

Reality check

For a start, 80% of the homes that we will all be living in by 2050 are already built, so adaptation of the current stock is the really big story in terms of housing and ageing.

Think 'housing for older people' and the image that springs to mind is sheltered housing which proliferated during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Look at most council's housing strategies and (if they mention older people at all) there will nearly always be a comment about building extra care housing.

And yet only 4% of older households are in properties built specifically for older people – 96% of older households are in mainstream homes that anyone might live in. We don't know what the future holds, so building all new homes to be decent, flexible, accessible and good for all ages has to be a priority.

What we should be worried about is the decline of home ownership and shift into private rental amongst younger generations, for a swathe of reasons, not the least of which are tenure insecurity and housing benefit costs as people retire on low pensions.

Myth busting

It is time to start busting the myths around housing and ageing. Using solid data and avoiding a negative narrative which defines ageing primarily as problem will result in improved analysis of housing and ageing issues, better solutions and good housing for all our futures – including Mrs Glass.

First published at SCIE.

The 100-year life: the role of housing, planning and design

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