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Research highlights need for housing for older people

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Recently published research by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield has examined the issue of older people's housing and provided new insights into areas with fast growing ageing populations.

Working closely with South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council, with funding from NHS England’s Healthy New Towns programme, researchers used national data from the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) to explore how housing, care and support needs of older people can be met.

The research, led by Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Regional and Economic Social Research (CRESR), examined how future social and demographic trends will affect demand, and suggests a major shortage in specialist housing in many local authorities in coming years.

With the number of residents aged 75 and over in Greater Cambridge set to nearly double between 2016 and 2036, the supply of specialist housing in the area will need to be 80 per cent higher by 2035, compared to current levels, to accommodate the growing demand. But the CRESR model found that both Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Council are already at a deficit, with the current supply of specialist housing some 69 and 208 units respectively below the recommended provision, and age-exclusive housing and the current provision of care beds having an even bigger shortfall.

As the population ages, the prevalence of long term health conditions is likely to increase, creating complex geographies of need and demand on various services, however Cambridgeshire County currently has the lowest level of care home provision per capita in the region.

With 85,000+ older residents in general needs housing, it is critical that housing stock is suitable and adaptable to their requirements, and meeting those demands requires a coordinated effort across a range of functions.

The research has led to the creation of a new tool called the Housing for Older People Supply Recommendations (HOPSR), which provides local authorities with recommendations about the number of units of age-exclusive housing, specialist housing and care beds that will be needed in future years. These recommendations are intended to stimulate discussion at a local level about how best to meet the needs of an ageing population.

One of the researchers on the project, Dr Tom Archer, said: “With an ageing population we urgently need to plan our housing provision to make sure it meets older people's needs. To do this, local areas must develop whole system approaches which joins together a variety of advice, care and home modification services, with more appropriate general needs and specialist housing.

“Many local authorities will need to increase their supply of specialist housing. Our new tool, HOPSR, can be the starting point for considering how to best meet local needs, and what scale and type of specialist provision is needed.”

Stephen Hills, Director of Housing at South Cambridgeshire District Council continues: “We are an area experiencing a huge amount of growth. So, it’s important the needs of older people are considered on new developments, such as the emerging new town of Northstowe, in the planning and building stages.

“This tool helps plan an appropriate mix of housing within our new and existing communities. It’s an excellent addition for local authorities, and I’m grateful that funding from the NHS England Healthy New Towns initiative has helped bring it forward.”