Housing our ageing population

The Housing Agency today launched new research on housing for older people at a special symposium on housing in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.

Speaking at the symposium today David Silke, Director of research at the Housing Agency said the following: “This new research is very valuable. We now for the first time have a detailed analysis of the housing market for older people which is important data for policy makers and other interested groups. By 2050 Ireland will be home to 458,000 people over the age of 80. Today only 130,000 people are over the age of 80 in this country.  There is a potential market for up to 100,000 purpose designed homes in Ireland and this represents €25 Billion worth of unmet need.”

The Research “Housing for older people – Thinking Ahead” was commissioned by the Housing Agency and Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange.  The research was undertaken by Gerard O’Neill, Amarach Research, with Dr Ronan Lyons (TCD), Dr Lorcan Sirr (DIT) and Keith Finglas Innovation Delivery.

The key findings of the research are as follows:

The population of older people is projected to increase:  The population of those aged over 65 is set to double from 13% to 25% by 2050, and the population of those over 80 is projected to increase from 130,00 to over 450,000 over that period.

Older People want to age in place – vast majority (88%) of those survived were happy with their current home.  When this was explored in more detail, however, there was a stronger link to the community rather than the actual house. One in five (21%) of those over 70 years said that the type of house and /or area they lived in had a negative impact on their ease of living. Those who had moved to a smaller property or to be closer to family or amenities, were generally happy with the move, particularly if it was a planned move.  A finding from the research is that people often wait too long before making a move and those who move earlier, with control over decision making are happy with the move.

There was a low level of preparation for old age, especially in terms of considering alternative accommodation. There also needs to be an improvement in the planning system to enable ageing in place and the community. 

More needs to be done to future-proof our homes – this will help to extend independence for longer. Technology can also play an increasing role here, there are on-going development that need to be tested. 

There is a potential market for 100,000 independent homes with care, which represents a potential market of €25bn worth of unmet need.  This would facilitate choice and independence. (It also equals to about 6 years supply for first-time buyers).  The research identified eight stages of housing care but Ireland currently really only heavily invested in first two stages (family home) and the last two stages (nursing home and hospital). We need to include this in our planning if the gap in provision between living independently at home and living in a nursing home is to be bridged.  Some stakeholders felt it wasn’t the lack of finance, or willingness to move but actually the lack of supply of appropriate options/models of housing that influenced their decisions.

The report can be downloaded here