Not Episode IV: A New Hope. The prequel – Episode I. Released 22 years after the original film, The Phantom Menace had a tough job to live up to the huge weight of expectation.
We haven’t had to wait that long for the Older People’s Housing Task Force. For the older people trapped in non-decent or unsuitable accommodation that it’s been set up to help, it might feel like it though.
After several years of campaigning by a number of organisations, it was February 2022 when the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper included a commitment to launch a new taskforce “to look at ways better choice, quality and security of housing for older people can be provided”. That would include, it promised, “how to address regional disparities in supply of appropriate and where necessary specialised housing”.
So the launch of the Task Force this year, sadly not on May the Fourth but May 16th, has been widely welcomed. And rightly so. The Task Force provides a possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to address the huge undersupply of appropriate housing for older people.
Members of the Housing and Ageing Alliance (HAA) have always pointed out the interconnections between housing and health – not to mention a host of other policy areas. It’s particularly encouraging, therefore, that the Task Force is supported by both the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department for Health and Social Care.
The three areas of focus are also encouraging: older people’s priorities, the housing and financial options available and planning. Or people, product and planning as they were summarised by Task Force Chair Professor Julienne Meyer when she spoke at a recent HAA meeting.
At the HAA, we believe that homes, communities and housing-related services should be planned and designed in ways that enable choice, control, inclusion and independence in later life. And, at a time of unprecedented demographic change, creating age-friendly homes and neighbourhoods where people can live well and lead fulfilling lives, involved with family, friends and their local community has never been more important.
Perceptions of what older people want and need do not always chime with reality though. Research from older people’s housing and care provider Anchor last year covered by Housing LIN found a clear disparity between what younger people believe their parents want and what older people themselves say.
As a broad spectrum of people from local and national organisations working together to bring about improvements to the housing and living conditions of older people, the HAA has a uniquely broad perspective. Crucially, members include older people themselves among a range of experts in the field and we are keen to engage with the Task Force to ensure older people’s voices are the driving force for change.
The challenges are significant and expectations that the taskforce will make real progress in addressing them are high. The lack of a level playing field for specialist providers when it comes to planning, the fact that the level of demand isn’t always understood and a lack of awareness and understanding among the public of the plethora of options are just a few of the obstacles that the Task Force Jedi Knights will need to navigate.
The Alliance can help provide many of the answers though. And with two members of the Alliance on the Task Force, we look forward to working with it to ensure that when it comes to increasing the supply of appropriate housing for older people there is, indeed, a new hope.
Mario Ambrosi is the Chair of the Housing and Ageing Alliance and Director of Communications and Marketing at Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people.
For more information about Housing & Ageing Alliance, visit the HAA webpage.