Addressing our 100-year lives

This blog was written by Sara McKey, Chair of FILT

I was privileged in March to be invited to join a small group of organisations led by The Design CouncilSocial Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Centre for Ageing Better to a workshop to look at how we can facilitate independent living for our future 100-year lives.

The group represented a variety of related agencies from health, care and housing, plus a full range of ages. There were a number of active carers in the room – some looking after partners as well as older children. What was apparent was the fact that no-one wanted to feel institutionalised by where or how they lived. They did not want their homes to be medicalised to enable them to live safely independently. There was a strong call for much more creative design that would appeal to all ages and not look clinical, grey and shout “vulnerable”.

Our Patron, Lord Best, speaks passionately about housing being the third leg of the stool with health and social care. Our health and wellbeing are massively affected by the quality of our housing and its adaptability to our changing needs. Whilst there is a need for more specialist housing, the vast majority of us (over 90% according to ONS 2011) will continue to live in mainstream housing. So how can we ensure it will be fit for purpose for a potential 100-year life, plus works for people across generations as intergenerational and communal living becomes more common?

I was struck by the lack of options for private funders to raise finance to support home improvements. How can we justify a cut-off point for bank loans at 70 when we’re quite happy to tax pensioners savings and charge them for often very poor quality care? That’s why our workshop was determined to look at not only good design, but also new financial products and better use of Government funds to support home adaptations and assistive technology. One of the four key recommendations in the states:

“Government should provide greater flexibility of finance by increasing age limits on lending, extend personal health care budgets to factor-in housing adaptions, and encourage the Disabled Facilities Grant to be used more innovatively to ensure speedy access to home adaptations.” Social Care Institute for Excellence

Clearly, better access to funding options will help more people stay in control of their lives and live successfully independently in their own homes. We welcome this proposal and look forward to seeing it built into the social care green paper. We need a truly integrated approach to housing, care and health systems to ensure we can all live positive and independent lives into older age.

Join our campaign to raise funds so that more people can live well in their own homes.

Sara McKee

Chair, FILT