Better Together

Blog by Sue Adams, CEO of Care & Repair England



The sun might be shining and the temperatures have been topping 30C, but just a couple of weeks ago some places were experiencing a months’ rain in an afternoon, and in March we were snowed in.

What does this ramble about the weather have to do with older people and housing?

Everything. If you have a home that is not weather resistant –  in a poor state of repair, with a leaking roof, rotting windows or faulty heating – these increasingly extreme weather patterns are going to make life even tougher.

Add to this the additional risks that a home with falls hazards (uneven stairs, slippery bathroom floor etc.) poses to you as you become older and less agile.

Just some of the reasons why making the current housing stock ‘decent’ is such a pressing issue in terms of good, healthy ageing.

Which is a long winded way of setting the scene for our great new partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better.

Older people, and older owner occupiers in particular, are over-represented in non-decent homes, with direct consequences for their health and well-being. The Building Research Establishment’s calculation of the costs to the NHS of £1.4b p.a. in first year treatment costs alone is often quoted, but what is less often highlighted is that nearly half of this cost arises from older householders.

Unfortunately, in recent years retrofit of current homes has fallen off the housing policy agenda, even though most of the homes we will be occupying in the foreseeable future are already built (80% of the homes that we will be living in by 2050 are already out there).

There is now increasing recognition that disrepair and degeneration of current homes is, in some areas, an even more pressing housing issue than supply.

Care & Repair England and the Centre for Ageing Better are going to work together to address their shared aim of improving the quality of existing housing for an ageing population.

This will include updating data and evidence around decent homes, working with a wide range of stakeholders to define ‘what works’ with regard to improving homes in order to create and promote the most effective approaches to reducing the number of non-decent homes.

The housing stock (of all tenures) is a precious national resource and there is a rising concern about current homes’ impacts on occupants. I have noticed an increasing interest in re-opening the debate about the state of existing homes and the need for policy and practice innovation, so watch this space.

[July 2019]