Plenty of food for thought to address my housing in retirement

Written by Judith Appleton, a retired Social Nutritionist

There IS sensible and even joined-up thinking on housing, and I found it in Sheffield. Thanks to the Housing LIN for supporting the DWELL's research feedback (opens new window) (1) event this month!

I happened on it via the website quoted in the Guardian's magazine on 24 September 2016 on Sarah Wigglesworth, Professor of Architecture at the University of Sheffield who leads DWELL (Designing for Wellbeing in Environments for Later Life). I pressed keys, read, and registered, hoping for some enlightenment in my current efforts to identify options for my last move while I'm still a happy, healthy singleton retiree of 70 living in a well-equipped light hilltop house with friendly neighbours of all ages and great public transport.... but I no longer need all the space in this 3-bed family house.

My own searches show that anything "age-appropriate" on offer that I can afford is pokey and in an age-ghetto. Alternatives may later need adaptation, but why would I move when my current house is easily adapted, without the stress of moving. I'm sure it could be made easier for me and others to make way for families in exchange for smaller homes that are pleasant.

DWELL's event introduced me to positive thinking on this housing conundrum, which hopefully may feed into policy: most instructive is their focus on what could be done in terms of architectural visioning and planning for multi-age adaptable housing, given appropriate land and funding arrangements. The fact that such ideas are currently neither entertained nor facilitated by either legislation or policy (or those who contract builders) confirms to me that although I and others are contributing to the intolerable squeeze on 25-40 year-olds and their families, we are not the cause of it.

DWELL's careful identification with Sheffield's older people of their preferences as well as needs, and the potential in that setting for designing modest pleasant housing which is adaptable for all ages, and their visualisation of modal (not model!) solutions, will be enormous help for others in different settings to adapt (not adopt) and use as bases for developing schemes elsewhere, as well as advocacy to local and national bodies for the land-use and financing arrangements needed for a really 21st century housing policy for all ages.

Missing from the day's presentations was information and discussion of costs and indicative budgets eg of the modal solutions. But knowing that the serious sensible thinking really is happening is key, and enthused me sufficiently to take a copy of the research report round to my local community land trust the same evening.

Thanks again DWELL and funders, and to the Housing LIN for supporting the event.

Until more, and more appropriate, housing is built, what people like me need is simpler ways to identify and finance house swaps, simpler than operating through a series of estate agents and multiple independent finance arrangements. That's what I'll be looking for now.

Further information on the DWELL research project is available at:

To view more resources on designing housing for an ageing population, including the HAPPI reports, visit the Housing LIN's dedicated 'design hub' at:

Published on Monday, 31 October 2016 by the Housing LIN



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