Government ‘overlooking the housing needs of older people’

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People has reported that government policies are ‘overlooking the housing needs of older people’ in rural areas and recommended that all new houses should be built with the elderly in mind.

As part of that recommendation, MPs argue that developers should consider the building of bungalows to make sure the UK’s ageing rural population is not left in homes that are unsuitable for their needs. Many older people who live in the countryside are used to ‘non-urban, low-rise environments’, and that should be respected in planning decisions.

The group state that developers should build all new homes to the Lifetime Homes standards of accessibility, which consists of a variety of criteria designed to ensure housing can be easily used by people as they get older. This can include widened doorways for those using mobility aids and stairs that are suitable for a stair lift to be installed, if necessary.

Lord Best, the chairman of the group, said: “Our underlying concern is with the growing numbers of older people in rural communities who will face a huge challenge to their independence and well-being if their homes are no longer suitable.

“Their needs can be met by both small village developments – perhaps six bungalows on an unused scrap of land – or by larger scale retirement schemes in towns close by. While we concluded that both these solutions can work well, we were particularly keen to remove the barriers to helping people remain in their own locality. We recognised that there are extra costs of delivering care to those in rural areas, we were clear that tailor-made homes will, of themselves, reduce the need for care at home and help older people stay well for longer.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said of the report: “With half of rural households expected to be headed by an over 65 in just two decades, it has never been more essential that we have a national focus on providing homes that meet the needs of our parents, grandparents and all the older people in our communities.

“Councils want to see a desperately-needed residential revolution in older people’s housing. However, they need to have the tools to build these appropriate homes, including the freedom to borrow to build new homes across the country, fully resourced planning teams so approvals can be given to appropriate homes as quickly as possible, and allowed to retain 100 per cent of receipts from Right to Buy sales so that homes sold can be replaced.”