Inaccessible housing poses ‘serious hazard’ to 1 million older people

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More than 1 million older people in the UK are living in homes that pose a serious threat to their health and safety, a study has found.

With 38% of homes dating from before 1946 (21% from before 1919), and just 7% from after 2000, the UK has the oldest housing stock in the EU, according to a new report from the Centre for Ageing Better.

These older homes are often in a poorer state of repair than newer homes and have more hazards, including cold, damp, fire risk and general falls hazards.

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One in five homes (4.7 million) did not meet the Decent Homes Standard in 2016, according to the report, and almost 3 million homes in England had at least one ‘category 1 hazard’ – defined as something that poses a serious threat to the health or safety of people living in or visiting your home.

Of these, one third – around 1.3 million – were occupied by someone aged 55 and over.

UK housing is also largely inaccessible, the Centre for Ageing Better found, with just 7% having all four accessibility features that make them welcoming to most people, like level access and a toilet at entrance level.

The news follows a recent report from the Office of National Statistics, which revealed that there was a 70% increase in people dying as a result of a fall between 2010 and 2017.

The Centre for Ageing Better is now calling on the government for more diverse housing options that meet the needs of people as they age, across all tenures.

Senior programme manager, Dr Rachael Docking said: “A suitable home is crucial for our health and wellbeing as we grow older.

“It can keep us safe and free from injury and falls, enable us to remain active and independent, and help us avoid costly health and social care. This will become ever more important as the number of people living into their 70s, 80s and 90s continues to grow.

“And yet, the inadequacy of some of the housing in the UK is compounding problems.”

The lack of suitable and affordable housing options for people as they age is leading many to stay put until a crisis forces them to move.

The Centre for Ageing Better’s research with Greater Manchester Combined Authority reveals that although those with higher levels of wealth can move more easily.

And those on the lowest incomes receive more support from social care providers, those on low- and middle-incomes can find themselves trapped in homes that are no longer appropriate for them.

“Building new and better homes should be a top priority in responding to the demographic shift we are experiencing,” said Dr Docking.

“We need renewed investment and interest in improving our existing housing stock and to support local authorities, planners and developers to deliver new homes that are future-proofed and accessible to everyone, regardless of age.

“This is about our future selves, our families, and our friends, and ensuring we all have the home environments we need to continue to live well in the communities we love.”

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Joe Peskett

The author Joe Peskett

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