Housing and care for an ageing population – can we do better?

European countries like the UK and France have acknowledged the challenges they face in supporting their ageing populations for some time. However, it has been acknowledged in China only recently but with more urgency due to the tremendous population size and predicted growth.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Karim Hadjri, have investigated how ageing-in-place can be supported, allowing ourselves, our parents and grandparents to age well and with dignity, without having to move out of our homes and communities.

Current trends in Europe show that older people are choosing to live independently in their own home. This means that they wish to age in their place and in their community.

Therefore, it is vital that we think of new ways to support this so that older people can live their later years in a place that is familiar, accessible, and that meets their needs and prevents them from feeling isolated.

Karim Hadjri

Professor at the School of Architecture

In Europe, it is recognised that investment in homes that provide independent or semi-independent living is required to meet the needs of later life. However, targeted investment in adaptation for improved levels of accessibility, and in specialised housing for older people, could lead to substantial cost savings in associated health and long-term care.

The €1 million ODESSA project, brought together researchers in the UK, France and China to study how ageing-in-place can be achieved. Proposals could kick-start new ways of adapting homes to avoid older people going into residential care as well as making it easier for them to access public services.

The project has explored the relationship between living arrangements, living environment and the design of care delivery. Taking into account the factors that impact on the different ways in which older people in China, the UK and France define care delivery, the project has produced a common framework for the study of care delivery mechanisms and the options available to older people in relation to cultural, socio-economic and welfare systems.

The team in Sheffield have identified 16 examples from the UK, France and China that are age-friendly living environments, equipped with assistive technology and designed using the principles of inclusive design, and with care provision when required. These independent living schemes support the development of a design framework for retrofitting options for mainstream housing where people can age well.

The recommendations have been tested by engaging with the views, experiences and needs of the diverse stakeholders, including older people. This helped the researchers to identify the challenges and opportunities of ageing well at home and provided an insight into the special design considerations required to design barrier-free, comfortable environments that are technologically enhanced to encourage better health, safety, independence, and a sense of community.

Researchers are planning future work to develop design and building standards for age-friendly housing and neighbourhoods in China, and to develop and implement a policy and design framework to support ageing-in-place at home and in the community.

The ODESSA (Optimising care delivery models to support ageing-in-place) project was funded by the ESRC (UK), ANR (France) and NSFC (China).

Read more about the project