Action needed to address the growing housing crisis for older people in Wales

The Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) have released a report which calls for a radical new approach to address the challenge of population ageing on housing policy in Wales.

Sarah Hillcoat-NalletambyWales has the highest proportion of older people in the UK, with over 26% of the population expected to be over 65 by 2037.  Currently, Wales has a severe lack of good quality, affordable housing options available to older citizens.

The report of recommendations, written by Dr Sarah Hillcoat-Nalletamby, Associate Professor, Social Policy & Ageing, Swansea University, calls for the Welsh Government to put serious measures in place to promote independent and autonomous living for older people in Wales by producing a long term strategy addressing and including ‘future-proofed’ and ‘age-sustainable’ housing. 

Whilst several other Western European countries are now offering new and exciting initiatives for housing options in later life, one answer to the housing crisis may lie in freeing up the housing stock currently under occupied and not fit for purpose for later life needs.  Offering older people a genuine choice of affordable and comfortable living, and providing services which help with decisions about moving home, will mean potential for better well-being, benefits to the whole housing chain and significantly reduced costs for health and social services.  Poor housing for older people has been estimated to cost the Welsh NHS millions each year due to accidents and medical problems associated with fuel poverty and energy inefficiency. Providing adequate homes would allow older people to stay independent for longer and avoid unnecessary admissions to nursing or hospital facilities.

The report calls for an increase in housing finance options, and calls on the Welsh Government to promote integrated working and funding for housing with care and independent living across health, housing and social care sectors, whilst maintaining public investments in existing home adaptations.

Dr Hillcoat- Nalletamby said: “I think we need to move out of our comfort zones and encourage policy makers, business and third sector communities and older citizens themselves to invest in “age sustainable design” thinking, planning and cost-effective building. Through my role as coordinator for the ENHR (European Network on Housing Research) working group “Housing and living conditions of ageing populations”, I’ve really been inspired by the very creative and innovative solutions that other countries are finding to address the housing requirements of older people now, and into the future.

Gary Day, the Group Land & Planning Director for McCarthy & Stone who contributed to PPIW report said:  “ We hope the report will mean that those in later life are no longer the forgotten part of the housing debate and that retirement housing can help to create a healthy housing chain that supports everyone back down to the first time buyer”.