The new study from Age Scotland makes series of recommendations for the Scottish Government and local authorities
New research on the housing needs of older people in Scotland has highlighted a need to increase the availability of accessible and adaptable homes so that people can live well and independently for as long as possible.
Age Scotland’s focus group research, funded by the Scottish Government and published this week, is an extension of the major national housing survey into the needs of older people released last year. It highlights the preference of older people to be able to live in a home with step-free access, that was over a single storey and had access to a garden.
The study was undertaken in November and December 2020 and digs into how people’s experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected their lives and housing decisions.
It reveals that community links and relationships with others nearby are key to decision making about housing choices, with people more willing to make do with a home that does not fully suit their needs if they feel settled in their area. A serious life event such as deteriorating health is the most likely catalyst for older people to move home, and these moves often occur later than required.
People were also found to have a fairly low awareness of services to help them make home adaptations and varying availability across Scotland.
With an ageing population, Scotland needs to ensure its housing stock is not only fit for the future but is able to meet the needs of older and disabled people now.
The report recommends that more homes which are accessible and adaptable are built, including targets for local authorities; that the Scottish Government work with housebuilders to deliver a greater mix of home types in new developments and foster intergenerational communities; ensure Scottish Government national housing strategies recognise and meet the needs of older people; and boost investment in care and repair services so that older and disabled people have easy and cost-effective ways to adapt their home wherever they live in Scotland.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “I welcome this report, which highlights the importance of listening to those with lived experience. The findings will help as we take on our new 20-year strategy for Scotland’s homes and communities, Housing to 2040.
"This new strategy shows how, subject to the outcome of the election, we will take forward a number of actions in this area, including the need for accessibility and adaptability for new homes, and the need to streamline the adaptations process and ensure planning is undertaken strategically across housing and health and social care services.”
Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan, said: “We’re very grateful to the housing minister and the Scottish Government for their partnership and support with this research and hope that it plays a useful role in shaping housing policy going forward.
“Our new research builds on our previous analysis and has identified the strong preference of older people to remain living in the community where they have established links and relationships. The ability to stay in their own home and make the necessary adaptations to improve accessibility so that they can live well and as independently as possible is very important to them.
“The challenge older people face if they want or need to move home is a lack of available, suitable housing in the community which they are part of or close to a support network. They are often looking for homes that are accessible, a manageable size, preferably on one floor, with a limited number of steps or step free access and ideally with garden space.
“We need to see a significant increase in the availability of accessible and adaptable housing across Scotland and in every community. Housebuilders should also look to have a greater mix of home types.
“Addressing these needs will not only boost the health and wellbeing of older and disabled people and ensure that Scotland has housing stock fit for the future, but also improve the availability of housing for people of all ages and stages in the places where they want to live.
“The Scottish Government’s new Housing to 2040 strategy is very welcome and has the right ambition for the future and we hope that the future National Planning 4 framework will also help realise the needs outlined in our research.”
Recommendations made by the report include that the Scottish Government should ensure that their housing and planning strategies, such as Housing to 2040 and the National Planning Framework 4, recognise the housing needs of older people and outline measures to meet them, and local authorities should have targets to address the lack of choice and availability in accessible housing and they should consider ways, such as with their planning powers, in which they can encourage a wider range of housing type to be built.