Over 2 million older people at risk of ill health and death from poor housing standards cross party group of MPs say

Over 2 million older people live in poor quality housing in England despite the link to ill health. This is just one of the findings from a new report on the impact of poor housing standards on older people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ageing and Older People today launches a report on decent and accessible homes for older people. The report comes after an in-depth inquiry over the last year that looked and heard from experts on the link between health and housing, home ownership, supported housing, and the private rented sector.

Poor quality housing costs the NHS a staggering £1.4billion every year with cold, damp and other hazards causing falls and exacerbating conditions such as heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses and arthritis as well as contributing to poor mental health.

Experts also predict that the numbers of older people renting in the private sector are set to soar in the coming years – often in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy accommodation. Currently households aged over 65 account for fewer than one in ten of all those living in the private rented sector, but their numbers are reportedly rising fast: a recent survey by the National Landlords Association (NLA) found that the numbers of retired people in the UK moving into the private rented sector has increased by 200,000 over the last four years.

Recommendations to the Government highlighted include:

  • A call for energy efficiency to be a national infrastructure priority.
  • Increase the funding for adaptations and repairs.
  • Restore funding for national and local housing advice services.
  • Adopt a national strategy on supported and specialist housing.
  • Work with private landlords to increase and allow for adaptations to homes and housing stock in the Private Rented Sector.

Rachael Maskell MP, Chair of the APPG for Ageing and Older People said:

“This APPG report shines a light on the devastating consequences living in a non-decent and non-accessible home can have for older people. Whatever tenure of home an older person lives in, it is paramount that the unique challenges they face are met and that they feel safe and secure in their homes.

“For many older people their homes are rooted in their communities and support networks. However suitable a new home may be, having to move away from their homes would mean being uprooted and would have a devastating impact on their wellbeing.

“We need to improve the conditions of current housing stock so that they work for the people living in them. We need to ensure that home improvement agencies have the capacity and resources to help older people, across all tenures, to carry out essential repairs and adaptations to their homes.

“The recommendation in this report for a national housing strategy will help to improve housing standards for this and future generations of older people.”

The Baroness Greengross OBE, Crossbench Peer said:

“Many older people are living in unsafe and unhealthy accommodation, and have little hope of being able to move somewhere better. To tackle this, more older people should have the option of living in sheltered or supported housing. Unless we work on sustainable solutions, vulnerable older people will continue to live in substandard accommodation, the implications of which could be devastating to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.”

Barbara Keeley MP, Shadow Cabinet Minister for Social Care and Mental Health said:

“This report has highlighted the clear link between housing, health and care and that living in poor quality housing can have a detrimental impact on older people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“There are more than a million people aged over 65 in the UK with an unmet care need. For them, everyday essential tasks like getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed can be made harder by poor housing. Poor housing puts increased strain on an underfunded care system and can result in unnecessary hospital admissions.

“We need to see action now to create decent and accessible homes that meet the needs of the aging population. By providing suitable housing for older people, we can prevent their health from deteriorating.”

Baroness Jolly, Liberal Democrat peer said:

“There are increasing numbers of older people living in the private rented sector who are struggling with rising rents, insecure tenancies and a lack of social or supported housing to move into. We have to consider whether this sector can be suitable for all older private tenants, especially those with low incomes developing care and support needs. We urgently need to reform security of tenure for all private tenants as this will play a key role in improving conditions and accessibility for growing numbers of older people living in privately rented homes.”

Andrew Selous MP, member of the Health and Social Care Committee said:

“Everyone should be able to live in a decent, healthy, accessible and adaptable home that allows them to receive the right health and care services at home. It is important that we improve the conditions of our current housing stock so that it works for the older people living in them.”