Recent date provided by the Centre for Ageing Better demonstrates that we cannot afford to be complacent about ageing and about our collective futures, and particularly the futures of people experiencing poverty, discrimination, and other disadvantages accumulated over the course of their lifetimes.
There are five chapters, including one on housing that highlights:
- Millions of people live in homes that are damaging their health and wellbeing and many are unable to make the changes needed to make their homes warm and safe due to a lack of money, time, support and/or advice.
- COVID-19 brought into sharp focus the need for everyone to have a warm, dry home, free from hazards, and easy to get in and out of. The pandemic also provided a stark illustration of the consequences when these things were not the case. Overcrowding was one of the reasons for higher mortality rates from COVID-19 in certain population groups (e.g. BAME groups). So, too, was having certain health conditions, such as respiratory diseases, that can be caused and exacerbated by poor-quality housing.
- More recently, cost-of-living increases and energy price rises once again highlight the vital importance of well-insulated, damp-free homes that mean people don’t have to choose whether to ‘heat or eat’.One estimate (opens new window)suggests that 21.5% of excess winter deaths may be due to cold housing.
- Half of the 4million non-decent homes in England – those that fail to meet basic decency criteria as defined by the government – are headed by someone aged 60 or over. Those aged 75 and over are most likely to be living in homes that are too cold and/or lack modern facilities.
- Only 9% of homes have all four accessibility features (a WC at entrance level; flush threshold; sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space; and level access) that make a home visitable.
- Across the country, 1million homes are lived in by someone who requires an adaptation but is going without; a third of these people are aged 55 and over.
This chapter also offers several recommendations on delivering the following changes:
- Focused action from across government to tackle the national crisis that is our poor-quality housing stock.
- Introducing regulations to ensure that all new homes are fit for the future.
Its overall recommendation is that government appoints an Older People’s Commissioner for England to protect and promote the rights of older people and to help make England a better place to grow old in. In line with the existing Older People’s Commissioners in Wales and Northern Ireland, this role would champion the needs of older people, particularly those at greatest risk, and safeguard all our journeys into later life.
Ultimately the report shows there are huge challenges facing the government’s levelling up ambitions to reduce inequalities across England as well as its stated commitment to increase healthy life expectancy by five years.