Accommodation for the older person: changing perceptions in Scotland

24.02.20

The make-up of the population is dramatically changing. By 2040, nearly 1 in 4 people in the UK will be over 65.

A society where people are living longer inevitably imposes greater demands on health and social care. Housing in particular has failed to keep pace with the rate at which demographic changes are occurring.

Currently, less than 1% of the population lives in accommodation which is purpose-built for the older person, which presents a significant opportunity for development.

Indeed, senior living is identified as a key focus by the Scottish Government in its Housing to 2040 vision, which looks at long term aspirations for the nation's housing provisions, in an effort to address pressing issues including an ageing population and climate change.

There is, however, a distinct lack of understanding about what is, and what could, be offered under the senior living umbrella. Common misconceptions among the public – and indeed, within the property market – are that it refers only to sheltered housing, care homes or accommodation at the "top end" of the market, reserved for those who are wealthy.

The reality is that the umbrella of senior living has a much wider reaching canopy. Downsizing, private sale, shared ownership, village-style communities, sheltered housing, private rental; the range of choice is reflective of a group whose needs vary significantly. Currently, the rate at which new senior living projects are being developed in Scotland falls well below the rate found south of the border, however there are legislative benefits here that make it rich in potential and opportunity.

The introduction of the private residential tenancy in 2017 put measures in place to ensure landlords can only remove tenants on prescribed grounds, (previously they could be removed without cause after six months), thus providing more security for tenants wishing to stay in rented accommodation on a long term basis. That legislative change positions Scotland as an attractive location to develop more rental living options for senior persons.

The benefit of purpose-built accommodation for the older person brings benefits not only to the individual and their family, but also to the wider community. For local authorities, the financial pressures that an ageing demographic and the demands it puts on health and social care could be eased through the provision of smarter, more adaptable housing options.

These would cater for the wellbeing of the individual and be adapted as circumstances and needs change; ultimately allowing people to live independently at home for longer.

What is needed to make senior living in Scotland a success? The allocation of land where there is demand; the right types of living accommodation to suit the location and its surrounding community; the confidence of lenders to provide developers with the funding to pursue such projects, the support of local authorities and the establishment of a culture that encourages older people to seek out specialist accommodation within a mixed community.

And finally, the backing of the public in recognising that senior living is not a term to shy away from, but instead a way to ensure that older people are living in accommodation that is beneficial to them, as well as the wider society.

Undoubtedly, there needs to be more conversation around senior living accommodation, to highlight the options, the benefits and the opportunities.

With its position secured on the Scottish Government's agenda, there is growing support on a local and national level for this type of accommodation, and it is expected to be a topic of much discussion for the housebuilding sector at our upcoming conference in March.

This article originally appeared in The Scotsman.


 

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