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Housing Needs of Older People - Panel Research

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Our latest 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.

Our focus group research, undertaken by Scotinform and funded by the Scottish Government, is an extension of the major national housing survey into the needs of older people we published 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.

Read the full report: Housing Needs of Older People - Panel Report

In this report we present our findings from our focus group research with older people in Scotland. During November and December 2020, we conducted research with small groups of older people about their housing preferences and needs and how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted this.

Key findings

Participants in the focus group research were recruited from those who had completed the National Housing Survey we had published in June 2020 and had indicated that they would be interested in future research. 

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the focus of the participants, with many being unwilling to make plans for the future. They were looking forward to being able to see family and friends again or to resume the activites they used to take part in.

This meant that many participants seemed happy to make do with their home, even if it didn't suit their needs. 

In general, and similarly to our previous housing research, the participants would rather live in a home that was over one storey and had access to a garden.

  • The support of community groups had been essential to keeping participants feeling connected and cared about during the pandemic. 
  • The coronavirus pandemic appears to have changed how people feel about their future. They were generally unwilling to make plans for fear of having to cancel them and their focus was on being able to see friends and family again or being able to resume their normal activities.
  • Those who had made adaptations to their home had largely done so at their own expense and there was a confused picture about who could use a Care and Repair service, due to the different experiences the participants had had when trying to access this service.
  • Some participants had used switching services to get a better deal on their energy bills, but they generally had not found this to be a worthwhile endeavour as they felt that prices rose anyway.

The results suggest that the coronavirus pandemic will have a significant impact on how older people plan for their future, at least in the short term. We believe that this report builds upon our previous housing research and demonstrates the need for more choice in types of home and that more homes should be built within existing communities. Older people do not want to move away from where they have lived for many years, built connections and are part of that community. And without the choice and availability of somewhere more suitable to move to, they opt to stay put until they have no other option but to leave.

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.

Kevin Stewart | Housing Minister, Scottish Government

Our recommendations for the Scottish Government and local authorities

We recommend that more homes which are accessible and adaptable are built, including targets for local authorities. The Scottish Government should work with housebuilders to deliver a greater mix of home types in new developments and foster intergenerational communities.

It is important to ensure that Scottish Government national housing strategies recognise and meet the needs of older people, and that boost investment in care and repair services is boosted so that older and disabled people have easy and cost-effective ways to adapt their home wherever they live in Scotland.

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.

Brian Sloan | Age Scotland's chief executive

Age Scotland’s full recommendations:

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.

The Scottish Government should consider how it can work with and influence housebuilders to start building a greater mix of types of homes, including more accessible homes, that would start to address the lack of diversity in the housing stock.

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.

It is important to recognise that there are a variety of preferences among older people about where they would like to live and the type of community they would like to live in. This research highlights a particular desire of participants to live in a community with a mix of ages and generations. House builders and Local Authorities should look at encouraging the building of housing developments which foster an intergenerational community.

Older people must have access to cost effective ways to make simple adaptations to their current home in order to live safely and well.

Adaptations can enable a person to live in their own home for longer, prevent hospital admission and speed up hospital discharge. The Scottish Government and Local Authorities should look to boost investment in Care and Repair services across Scotland so that there is a consistent level of access wherever someone lives.

The impact of lockdown and subsequent Covid-19 related restrictions have demonstrated how valuable a person’s local community is to their wellbeing. Planning authorities should make greater efforts to ensure that there is good access to public services such as healthcare, amenities, transport links and green spaces when granting permission for new housing developments.

The Scottish Government should look at how internet connectivity, speed and reliability can be improved across Scotland as this is a significant barrier to older people being able to keep in touch with others and access information online. This requires greater rollout of highspeed broadband infrastructure across Scotland so that every home has fast internet access. Further work on supporting older people to learn how to use the internet should be pursued.

The Scottish Government should run a long-term, national awareness campaign of the various home energy efficiency schemes available to older people as this research, and previous Age Scotland housing research, has demonstrated that there is low awareness among older people about the schemes that are available. Greater promotion of services such as Home Energy Scotland would be beneficial so that older people would know where to turn for impartial energy advice.

The Scottish Government could consider providing support to a central advice service that could help people to switch their energy provider, so that older people have the option of calling and speaking to an advisor, which may provide a better service than online switching services.

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