RIBA bemoans severe lack of age-friendly homes

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has launched a call for urgent action to tackle the severe lack of age-friendly housing.

A home for the ages: Planning for the future through age-friendly design emphasises the importance of well-designed, purpose built new homes that enable people to play a more active role in their communities as they age. In the report, RIBA warns that within five years a quarter of the English population will be aged over 60. Yet new housing is being built with little regard to the needs of our ageing population.

The report includes new data from Centre for Towns and ComRes, revealing: populations in towns and villages all over the country, inland and coastal, have aged significantly in the last 40 years – a trend that is set to continue; the cost to the NHS of inappropriate housing for people over-55 is projected to reach £1 billion per year by 2041 in first year treatment alone; and that a quarter of over 55s are currently considering moving home but over half feel that the housing options available are inadequate.

All the while, demand for age-friendly housing outstrips supply. Age-friendly design brings wide positive impacts for all generations; enabling people to keep socially and economically active for longer and reducing dependence on public services.

RIBA is calling on the government and the construction sector to tackle this ‘hidden’ housing crisis by ‘mainstreaming’ age-friendly design so that all new build housing is accessible and adaptable and removing barriers in the planning system that restrict the delivery of age-friendly homes.

Furthermore, the report recommends providing better information and support for people who want to move home, including signposting accessible housing; and piloting fiscal incentives to support older people to move home; ensuring better integrated public services so that people can be more actively engaged in living, working and socialising in their own communities; and introducing government funded design awareness training for planners and local councillors and new settlement programmes incorporating Lifetime Neighbourhood principles.

Ben Derbyshire, RIBA president, said: “Our society is changing dramatically – we are living longer, our families and communities are dispersed, and in too many cases we are cut off from public transport and social infrastructure. Change is necessary in the way we plan, design and build houses to meet the challenge.

"Prioritising age-friendly design not only benefits the over 55s, it is central to tackling the wider housing crisis. Local authorities have largely ignored this need and opportunity, focusing instead on basic, short-term solutions. This is England’s hidden housing crisis. We must encourage more innovation and plan properly for the future.

"Older people should not feel that they need to move if they don’t want to, but they should have options available to them. We urge policy makers and local authorities to modernise their thinking on housing and consider the differing needs in this country.”