The future is grey and social landlords must prepare for the needs of an ageing population
"We want older people to live in suitable homes, to have access to care and support services that are convenient, and to be part of the community. And we want all this to be affordable and flexible so that they can access what they need, when they need it."
Chan Kataria, Chief Executive
The population is ageing rapidly and housing providers must adapt to ensure they are serving the needs of older residents
By 2040, one in four of the population will be older than 65. Most people currently over this age live in mainstream housing, with less than 1% living in housing with care. We need to start acting now to shape the future housing and care landscape for older people.
At emh group, most of our older residents live in non-specialist accommodation. What is clear, though, is that they are living longer, becoming frailer, and have increasing care and support needs.
This is the backdrop against which we reviewed our strategy for older people. A critical look at current provision is always a good starting point. Our sheltered housing schemes are generally popular with high resident satisfaction, but how long will this type of accommodation remain fit for purpose?
Unsurprisingly, some of our traditional sheltered housing schemes don’t meet current space standards. Facilities are often outdated and accessibility is increasingly becoming an issue for those whose mobility is impaired.
That is why we are appraising our options for our provision of sheltered housing. We will review patterns of demand, the costs of our existing provision and the costs we anticipate from changing to the physical environment.
To ascertain wider benefits, we also looked at social return on investment. The clear message is that there are considerable benefits to individual tenants and the public from the provision of such accommodation, including prevention of bed-blocking, reduced isolation and improvement in residents’ mental well-being.
The next step will be to consider future provision. This involves identifying the aspirations of our customers and how we can use emerging technologies to enhance residents’ life in our homes. The overall aim is to modernise our approach to the provision of specialist housing and care.
Future provision includes options ranging from older people living in their own homes to living in residential care.
In between these extremes, we have other options, including technological assistance and domiciliary care services, to enable them to live safely and independently in their own homes. Another important element of our development strategy will be the delivery of lifetime homes to prevent or reduce the need to move.
In our experience, the most popular provision is extra care housing. Such accommodation enables people to live independently, with care and support tailored to meet their needs. We have built three such schemes and we aim to build three more over the next five years.
A good example is our extra care scheme in Blaby, Leicestershire. This offers a range of services, including a library, a cinema, a restaurant, a micro-shop and a hairdresser. By being integrated with the local community, this development makes a strong contribution to placeshaping.
However, there are immense barriers to the provision of such housing. For a start, it is expensive to build and requires considerable capital funding to make them viable, sometimes from Homes England and the local authority. This is difficult to achieve, as affordable housing subsidies have been reducing.
The strategic partnership model has helped to overcome this to an extent, but it is early days and a new Conservative regime may have a different approach to investment in affordable housing.
Also, the lack of integration between housing and care means that revenue funding is far from secure.
Some local authorities adopt traditional approaches to tendering of care services, which militates against housing associations that want to provide holistic housing and care services.
In fact, cutbacks in adult social care budgets mean the commissioning income for those who are not self-funders has come under severe pressure.
Yet the benefits of homes and services for these groups produce multiple benefits for society.
These include reducing the pressure on health services, unlocking housing supply through innovative lettings policies, and bringing life back into town centres through building on brownfield sites.
Our aim is to support people to be independent for as long as they want to be and – where necessary – support them during life transitions.
We want them to live in suitable homes, to have access to care and support services that are convenient, and to be part of the community.
And we want this all to be affordable and flexible so that they can access what they need, when they need it.