This is the response of many people when I tell them that we are embarking on a project to make our house age friendly. Just into our 60’s my husband Chris and I are sure that we are the right age to take on a project of turning a 1950’s house into an accessible home, where we can go on using all the space into old age. The architect we engaged took a while to get used to the idea, but has enjoyed creating a vision with us that is long term and not based on re-sale value.
My Mum said, “why did you buy the house if you don’t like the layout”, a good question! We bought the house because it is well served by frequent bus services that can take us to shops, green spaces and health services in less than 10 minutes. The post office, general store and pharmacy is quarter of a mile away as is the station with trains into London. We have lived in flats in the past but, like many people, enjoy having our own garden. Rather than ‘downsize’ we want to ‘rightsize’ our home, by applying as many of the HAPPI design principles as we can.
'Rather than ‘downsize’ we want to ‘rightsize’ our home'The interior of the house is mainly unchanged since 1950, when the average life expectancy for women in the UK was 71.5 years. Today Chris and I have parents living into their 90’s. We have seen first-hand the challenges of staying independent when strength and mobility reduces; the bungalow that has different floor levels and stepped thresholds, the aunt who spent the last 5 years of her life living in one room in a 3 bedroom house, the front doors too narrow for a wheelchair to go through.
Having worked in housing, health and social care for over 35 years I know there are more specialist housing options now than there were even a decade ago, but only a few where you can co-design your home. At the current pace of development we can expect it to be several years before co-housing is an option for most people. We dipped our toe in the self-build market but scarcity of sites and costs ruled that out.
I am writing from a rented flat having moved out of the house to make way for the builders. We are up to our ears in specifications for just about everything and aware of the need to get this right for the long term. Scary and exciting in equal measure.
The Housing LIN looks forward to following Margaret’s project over the coming months.
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