The government must require all new homes to be built to be accessible and adaptable as standard and commit to improving the condition of existing housing.
That’s according to a charity that has warned of “substantial inequalities” in health, work and housing for people in their 50s and 60s putting extra pressure on care services and local authorities if it is not addressed.
In a new report, Centre for Ageing Better said that a significant proportion of the population is at risk of suffering poverty, ill-health and hardship in later life.
The report found that pensioner poverty is rising for the first time since 2010. About 2m over-65s, more than Birmingham and Manchester’s combined population, are in relative poverty.
The charity is calling for a “radical rethink” from government, businesses and charities to ensure the next generation of older people can experience a good quality of life as they age and make the most of the opportunities presented by longer lives.
The research brings together publicly available data sources to reveal differences in how people experience ageing depending on factors such as where they live, how much money they have or what sex or ethnicity they are.
While people aged-65 can expect to live just half of the remainder of their life without disability, those in less affluent parts of the country will die earlier and be sicker for longer.
Ill-health is a major cause of people falling out of work prematurely and can affect quality of life and access to services like healthcare.
Britain is undergoing a demographic shift, with the number of people aged 65 and over set to grow by more than 40% in just two decades, reaching over 17 million by 2036.
As more people live longer, greater focus is needed on tackling the causes of preventable ill-health and disability including poor diet and low levels of physical activity.
A prime cause was noted as a lack of accessible and adaptable housing in the UK.
Dr Anna Dixon, chief executive of Centre for Ageing Better, commented: “Living for longer can provide us with huge opportunities to enjoy ourselves and spend time doing the things we love.
“But this report is a wake-up call for us all – many people in their 50s and 60s now, particularly those who are less well-off, simply won’t get the quality of later life that they expect or deserve.
“We must act now to add life to our years; to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of a longer life.
“Without radical action today to help people age well, we are storing up problems for the future and leaving millions at risk of poverty and poor health in later life.”