Technology & Housing: Working together to allow us all to “live better for longer”. The TAPPI Challenge in the 21st century

Roy Sandbach pic blog
Professor Roy Sandbach OBE
Former Director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, and chair of the Housing LIN's TAPPI Inquiry Panel

Last month, I gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People’s AGM and meeting on technology and housing in later life. In this blog for the Housing LIN, I want to share my speaking notes.

I am 67. My mother is 92. We both want to “live better for longer”. We have very different needs…..but there are some fundamentals on independence, choice, social engagement, mobility, safety. And nearly all of these depend on where we live and how we engage with society and the things around us…..and, surely, technology is key.

12 years ago, the HAPPI Panel, chaired by this APPG’s Lord Best, established a set of housing design principles for the delivery of housing for the ageing population. These provide a framework for stakeholders across the industry…..and have brilliantly stood the test of time.

Several months ago, the Housing LIN – funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust – made an effort to establish a further set of criteria relating to the use of Technology in Housing for our Ageing Population, the TAPPI Panel. A brilliant panel of experts & witnesses from every stakeholder community, has been working on this, with my inexpert chairing……Let me share some “work in progress” thoughts……ahead of the TAPPI report later in the summer.

First, we definitely need technology on our side……

By 2040, we’ll have around 6 million more over-65s in the UK. Easy to say. The equivalent of 10 cities the size of Leeds, all completely full of newly over 65 people! An increase, not the absolute….which, by the way, will be around 20 million…..i.e., a quarter of the UK population over 65.

And where will they live?

Currently, 90% of over-65s today live in mainstream housing. A third of all housing. But the critical thing is that 80% of housing that will exist in 2040 is already built.

We must think of housing and technology dovetailed as the “living platform for better & longer lives”. With the existing housing stock as the baseline challenge for innovative action.

Of course, I’m not saying that this is the only challenge. There is clearly opportunity to deliver tech-readiness and application in all housing for vulnerable and older people as well as in existing dwellings including care settings and new housing environments. But the majority of people need technology to enable a wonderful, safe, secure and contented life in their own, existing homes. It is key to well-being as people enter autumn years. 

So, what has the TAPPI panel been learning about the way to successfully dovetail housing and tech.……?

A great deal …..with insights from experts, practitioners, innovators and carers!

In a nutshell, we heard “technology should enable me to live the life I want and to do the things that are important to me”, a wonderful start to one of our meetings from TLAP’s Chair, Clenton Farquharson.

Everyone (from the wonderful Occupational Therapist community to creative Social Housing groups to the Technology Developers) is telling us that we need to get the end-user 100% involved in creating solutions. This isn’t easy……the over-65s population is such a heterogeneous demographic! But it must be done.

Further, we were asked to be mindful that choice is as important for older people as it is for everyone else. Being older doesn’t remove the desire for functional AND beautifully designed products and services. Commoditising services is not good enough. Personalisation counts. And the creation of a technology marketplace for individuals, their carers & providers to make the right choices is vital.

And older people are capable. The ONS Internet Users 2020 study is interesting. 94% of households have the internet, 70% of over-65s use the web daily, 65% shop online. Covid will have driven these numbers higher. As Rethink Partners told the TAPPI Panel, “we are more tech savvy than people give us credit for!”. As professionals working in this space, we just need to make sure that we “inform and include” everyone as the technology journey becomes part of their life.

Of course, we’ve also learned a great deal on the practicalities that relate to housing in the broader sense.

Most notably, that “we need to change the culture of just doing the minimum compliance build”……. Just enough isn’t good enough……and is likely not to create housing that is tech-ready and providing the desired home experience that people demand.

We also heard that interoperability of techplatforms is vital…..and we really need to address the siloed nature of this whole sector. This can’t continue. Openness is vital, especially as we create a dynamic home technology marketplace.

Beyond this, there was vibrant discussion of the importance of building “technology learning” into the training curricula for the range of engaged professionals…..from housing, planning, through to health and care professionals….and, of course, into lifetime learning for the population at large. But how? This is potentially one of the most important educational tasks for the country….and must be part of a big effort in the context of preventative public health. 

One final point, there are win-wins everywhere if we get this right and do some proper systems thinking. Govt. savings in health and care costs, business opportunities in a housing tech market, and older people having more fulfilled lives.

I hope that I’ve recruited you to this future. We’ll all be there eventually…..  Keep an eye open for the TAPPI Report. I’m sure that you’ll find significant food for thought.


If you found this blog by Professor Sandbach of interest, you can read more about the TAPPI Panel’s Inquiry and a range of other resources on housing and technology curated by the Housing LIN on our dedicated Technology enabled Care and Housing (TeCH) webpages.

Lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can support you develop your housing for older people strategic vision and/or operational plans to meet the future accommodation needs of older adults, please email us at: info@housinglin.org.uk

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