Suffolk: Expert says investment in housing for elderly needed to bring down care costs

Janet Sutherland, a consultant specialising in housing and regeneration.

Janet Sutherland, a consultant specialising in housing and regeneration. - Credit: Archant

Communities in Suffolk need to think about building age-friendly housing now to avoid costs in future years, a leading housing expert has warned.

Janet Sutherland said it was costing the NHS £600 million pounds nationally to provide care for older people who lived in poor or inappropriate housing.

Some 24% of the Suffolk population will be over 65 by 2020, with 4% aged 85 or more.

Ms Sutherland, a consultant on housing and regeneration, was speaking at the Suffolk Ageing Well conference in Ipswich today.

Current housing stock, she said, was often hard to heat and carried the risk of falls or injuries.

“We need to have a clear idea of housing needs and supply and looking forward where are the gaps going to be?” she said. “Planners often aren’t as fully engaged in the process as they could be. It’s very rare that planners really think ‘what we need is more old people’s housing’. But if you involved them in the process they might think about it.”

With 89% of people living in general needs housing, Ms Sutherland added: “The reality is most people continue to live in their own home and in many cases people enjoy better quality of life if they could adapt their homes… If we don’t address them it could create bigger problems for the NHS down the line.”

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She cited the example of Denmark, where “huge numbers” of older people downsize as a matter of course.

The conference, hosted by Suffolk County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, debated ways to make Suffolk a better place for older people to live in.

Veteran broadcaster Stuart Jarrold delivered the keynote speech at the event.

Asked about ageism in the media, Mr Jarrold said: “I do think ageism is an issue in some areas of the media but I think it’s getting better.”

Citing his own experience of being hired by Sky Sports news while in his sixties, Mr Jarrold added: “There’s a certain quality and authoritativeness when you have been in the business as long as I have. People appreciate what you’re talking about and that you’re not some young upstart.

“There are some barriers to bring down but I think we are winning the battle a little bit.”