We all wish to live well in later life, and have the support we need to lead independent lives. But chronic diseases increase dramatically with age and already account for almost 80% of total healthcare spending in the UK. Over half of people aged over 75 now live alone, and this number is predicted to rise sharply. Against this background, the current system for delivering care seems unsustainable. And this is an issue that will affect us all.
As assistive technologies develop, they will help with everyday living. More facilities delivering extra care can also be built by specialist providers. However, the vast majority of older people will continue to live in ordinary homes that are no longer fit for purpose. We cannot immediately resolve the challenges presented by our existing housing stock, but we can ensure that the homes we build today will enable those living with long-term conditions to live independently, for as long as possible.
New developments offer unique opportunities to explore innovative approaches. In our most recent proposals to the London Borough of Bexley, our offer includes flexible, adaptable, affordable homes which anticipate the future housing needs of our shifting demographic. These are not retirement homes, but age-friendly spaces that embody the principles of ergonomics, gerontology and design thinking, to improve the quality of everyday life. And in doing so, they can reduce demand on the care system.
Our project started with an architectural plan which included the basic features recommended to improve mobility. We then went on to research adaptations that could facilitate the key activities of daily living, to optimize the internal environment for the widest range of ages. This needed to be a prescriptive specification, to ensure we could stay true to the project principles throughout the construction process.
From our research, we found that many initiatives restrict these adaptations to specialised settings which target specific groups, like dementia sufferers. At PHASES, we believe these features should be rolled out as standard in every new home, creating truly inclusive lifetime spaces, which balance our desires for independence and for connectedness, whatever our life stage.