The report clearly outlines the scale of the challenge posed by an aging population for housing associations in providing accommodation and support. Indeed, the challenge is striking: By 2034 the over-85 population is expected to more than double.
The report explores what the older population will be like in 2030, and what housing associations should be thinking about now. It also spells out what the sector and government need to do to realise the opportunities and manage the risks associated with older people's housing.
Ultimately, a read of the report will lead you to conclude that the answer to the question posed in the title is that housing associations are not ready for an ageing population.
And the aim of the paper appears to be to prompt housing association housing associations into action to prepare for the challenges presented by an ageing population.
The author does this well, making a compelling case for the need for housing associations to understand the needs of their older customers, to understand the impact an ageing population will have on their services and to adapt services to take this into account.
Where the report falls short is that it feels like an introduction. It leaves the reader, and probably the writer too, itching to takes us beyond this conclusion and find out what real life older people do want ¬- not just what stats show - and what housing associations can or might do to adapt to support this changing demographic.
It also fails to address funding challenges, that are ever deepening. And in a world focussed on unit costs and efficiencies it doesn’t explicitly, in cold hard figures, demonstrate the business case for housing association’s addressing this need.
Ultimately housing association’s customer base is changing, and any business has to adapt to a changing customer base. This report offers a good foundation for housing associations wanting to do that.
Whilst acknowledging that this is a well researched and useful report it was probably written to a specification and budget that meant it had to be focused on strategic and funding issues. It is important that some of the technical innovations we have seen recently are not forgotten as they will play a major role in supporting older people to live independently. For example:
- Technology – particularly Wi-Fi needs to be built in to buildings now so that in due course sensors or other assisted living technologies can be easily introduced when needed to support older people.
- Similarly design features that allow older people to age in situ, for example, wheelchair/mobility scooter access, wet rooms to reduce trip hazards, ‘cages’ to catch mail to reduce falls from bending over, need to be designed and built into new housing - which although costs more initially, will save money ultimately by avoiding expensive retro-fitting.
As our population rapidly ages, there is a growing gap between those in need of care/support and the number of people entering care as a career. Technology and innovation are the only things that can help bridge this growing demand v supply gap.