Is housing the Ringo in your social care model?

It’s easily overlooked, but housing can create the conditions that let the magic happen, says Clare Morris

Looking at the complex connections between health, social care and communities, it’s easy to forget that a key strand is housing, whether council built and/or owned or out there on the commercial market. Planners, developers, and house builders may not be on your contacts list, but arguably they should be.

As society rightly becomes more ambitious about the ecological credentials of our housing stock – brilliantly insulated, energy efficient, renewably powered –  we need to take a more holistic approach to sustainability, including ageing in our calculations. To push for homes that are easier to live in, well connected to support networks, and able to help monitor residents’ health.

So what part can we play in future-proofing new builds to support the evolving needs of the ageing people they host? What role can we have in adapting and retrofitting existing homes with intuitive technology that enables choice, supports residents’ aspirations and meets their changing support needs? If we’re serious about meeting our social care ambitions we need to think about how we can engage and work with housing.

For some, that’s a big leap – especially if planning, housing and social care are siloed into different organisations in your area. These can also be sensitive topics within local authorities – not least because housing policies can win or lose votes – but work is underway to develop a collaborative approach and get things moving.

Earlier this autumn I contributed to the Technology For our Ageing Population Inquiry’s panel for innovation (TAPPI), hosted by Housing LIN and funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, which explored the real potential technology in housing and care contexts has to support people as they age, and what barriers might be holding back the installation of assistive tech at scale. TAPPI consulted widely, drawing on evidence from smart-home developments, retirement villages, supported living homes, housing associations, care providers, charity partnerships and our own work with local authorities and communities.

The final report makes inspiring reading for those of us grappling with this challenge but highlights the need for a framework that moves us all to a shared future where supportive, enabling and preventative technology is embedded in every home.

TAPPI’s next move will be to create a Framework for Action, but in the meantime there’s a huge opportunity to be grasped in your own local area, and in your own office building maybe, to get those conversations started.

About Clare Morris
Clare Morris is a former NHS leader and co-founder of Rethink Partners, working with health and care organisations to visualise and implement change for good.
clare@rethinkpartners.co.uk

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