England has a rapidly ageing population.

The number of people aged over 65 is projected to grow from 10 million to almost 17 million by 2035, with significant implications for housing and support needs. Older people can have a range of specific housing requirements, and a range of policy responses is therefore needed.

This ageing society is one of the greatest challenges for housing and national government has identified this as an area where significant changes need to be made, not only in the actual buildings but in challenging society’s perceptions of what housing for older people should mean.

“To achieve sustainable development, economic, social and environmental gains should be sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system.”

NPPF, 2012

In 2013, The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change published a report entitled ‘Ready for Ageing?’ The report underlined the impact that poor housing can have on health and social care services, and acknowledged that ‘many localities have a need for greater provision of more suitable housing for older people, with more support services’. Since the report was published there has been a rapid development of strategies to encourage greater integration between health and social care, and housing for older people is now beginning to be explicitly included in the planning framework.

“By 2026 older people will account for almost half (48 per cent) of the increase in the total number of households [in the UK], resulting in 2.4 million more older households than there are today.”

Lifetime homes, lifetime neighbourhoods: A national strategy for housing in an ageing society

The National Planning Policy Framework directs local planning authorities to plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community, (including older people). The key tool used by local authorities for assessing housing needs is the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), which informs the Local Plan as well as neighbourhood plans, Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies, helping to connect health and social care strategies with housing and planning. Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments (SHLAAs) complement SHMAs by identifying the potential supply of land for housing, including for specialist housing for older people.

At local authority level, Local Plans set out local planning policies for their areas. These often include policies on design (e.g. requiring development to meet the Lifetimes Homes standard), and housing for older people, and may also allocate sites for housing for older people (although this is rare to date). The Localism Act has given more power to local people to set policies for their area. Local authorities are required to work in partnership with local communities and share their evidence base to help inform the development of neighbourhood plans, which could help to deliver housing suitable for older people where this is one of the objectives of local people.

Making our community ready for ageing, a report recently published by International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) with the support of charity Age UK, sets out steps local authorities should take to ensure communities can function with an ageing population. The report says that if we are to cope with demographic change we need to build far more houses; and that this housing needs to be set within age friendly environments and needs to be designed inclusively to accommodate people’s changing circumstances and needs over their lifetimes. The planning vision, the report suggests, “should be that of inclusive places for an ageing population, with lifetime home standards in all mainstream housing (in which the vast majority of older people live) alongside specialist and retirement housing”. It also recognises the need for planning to facilitate a greater choice of retirement housing. The provision of green space is also given significant emphasis, with the report suggesting an appropriate minimum standard of access to green space (to be applied by planners to new residential developments) might be based on the Accessible Natural Greenspace Standard (ANGSt).

The impacts of climate change on older people, a potentially vulnerable group due to increased likelihood of deteriorating health that comes with age, also need to be considered when planning for older people’s health and wellbeing. There is increasing evidence that vulnerable older people make up the bulk of the fatalities from flooding, heatwaves, cold snaps, air pollution and storms; of some 14,800 deaths in France caused by the 2003 heatwave, 70% were people over the age of 75. Impacts include both direct impacts on health and wellbeing and indirect impacts, including through disruption to services that older people rely on. Options to improve the resilience of vulnerable older people to climate change include ensuring older people have access to local support networks, health and social care, timely information and coping skills; as well as ensuing the physical and social infrastructure of nursing homes allows adaptation (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2013; Oven et al, 2012; Stockholm Environment Institute, 2008).

  • Housing LIN – The Housing Learning and Improvement Network website provides a rich source of resources relating to strategic planning of housing for older people, and older people’s housing more generally.
  • Lifetime homes, lifetime neighbourhoods: A national strategy for housing in an ageing society – Although produced back on 2008 this strategy provides a useful reference for a holistic approach to designing both housing and neighbourhoods for the ageing population.
  • Community matters – This report published by longevity and demographic change think-tank the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) with the support of charity Age UK, sets out steps local authorities should take to ensure communities can function with an ageing population.
  • Climate change, justice and vulnerability – Guidance on analysing social vulnerability to the impacts of climate change showing how to learn from past UK flooding and heatwave events to measure socio-spatial vulnerabilities and map geographical distributions of climate disadvantage.
  • Winchester’s CIL charging schedule – Winchester City Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy charging schedule was approved by the Council on 8th January 2014 and took effect from 7th April 2014. CIL is charged on the net additional gross internal floor area of a development. The schedule defines three charging zones and highlights that “Sheltered Housing, Extra Care, or other specialist housing providing care to meet the needs of older people or adults with disabilities” are excluded from the definition of residential, meaning that they are not liable to pay CIL (thereby supporting delivery of this form of housing).
  • Haringey’s Older People Housing Strategy – This Older People’s Housing Strategy (for 2011-21) aims to deliver an integrated approach to the housing needs of older people in the borough. It seeks to ensure that older people are not isolated and detached from the communities in which they live, that they have the help and support to remain independent for as long as possible, and that older people have real choice, be it to move in to high quality specialist housing (of a range of types and costs, located with close proximity to local amenities and transport links) or to stay in their own homes.
  • Adapting health and social care services for older people – Horsham District expects a 60 per cent increase in older people by 2026; it had concerns about the impacts of climate change on services to this potentially vulnerable group. Participation in Durham University’s Built Infrastructure for Older People in the Context of Climate Change (BIOPICCC) research project has helped to establish closer working relations between Horsham District Council, Sussex County Council and NHS West Sussex. This has enabled the Adult Services directorate within West Sussex County Council to focus their programme of work around adapting to future weather conditions. Consideration has been given to older adults and also the wider health and social care system and supporting infrastructure including roads and utilities. It is hoped that the experience gained in the case study communities can be used in working with other communities in Horsham District and across West Sussex.