England has a rapidly aging population. For a majority old age is no longer a defined way of life. It is a changeable experience determined by a wide range of factors including general health and well-being, wealth and choices, relationships and location. There is an increasing diversity among older people in terms of age, culture and ability. Many older people have neither assets nor sufficient incomes with 23% living below the official poverty line. One critical factor is the housing tenure currently occupied and the choices available to the aging population.
The number of people aged over 65 will grow from 10 million today to over 17 million by 2035 and 60% will be of those aged over 65 alongside 21% of those aged over 85. There will have to be a radical shift in health and social care policy frameworks to support the full spectrum of housing, care and support needs of this population.
So what resources are available? Whilst The government look to unite health and social care services at a local level and give the option to introduce a 2% Community Charge levy there has been little or no emphasis upon the future housing needs of this group. The changes to Housing Association funding with enforced 1% annual rent /Housing benefit reduction, Local Housing Allowance Caps and Right to Buy makes less resources available. Many specialist providers are concerned about long term financial viability of their services.
Perhaps the answers lie in greater usage of what housing stock occupied by our increasingly elderly population. The Intergenerational Foundation says more than one third of our housing stock is under-occupied by at least 2 bedrooms as children leave home or people become widowed or divorced.
So choice for elders seems to be also diminishing. The Happi Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People found that whilst many wished to `stay –put` many other wished to move if the right accessibility, care and support can be provided. Research shows that 92% of residents in Specialist housing are very happy or content. Furthermore 64% said their health and wellbeing had improved since moving.
Offering accommodation designed with the older occupant in mind is part of the answer to our emerging housing supply crisis. As our population is increasing by over 500,000 people per year and households are forming at twice the rate at which new homes are being built we have a major national and local problem to solve. If accommodation is low cost, cheap to heat, spacious and accessible, close to transport, shops and community facilities it is an attractive offer to our elderly population to `downsize` and release valuable stock.
Many charities now have a wide range of residential homes that are no longer either desirable or financially viable when local authority financial support is being reduced but long term needs are rising. An answer is to either re-model or re-provision existing services with a view to creating long term social and financial sustainability.
If you wish to consider the options please contact John Brennan on 01803 852270 or email john@cara community.co.uk. for a confidential and free conversation.