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Future-proofing our housing stock for an ageing population

Official projections are that the population of Scots aged 65 or older will rise by 53% from 969,000 in 2014 to almost 1.5 million by 2039. A growing number of older people are living with complex conditions such as dementia. People's expectations for later life are also changing with most aspiring to live independent lives for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, there is general agreement that we need to build many more homes to meet demand. For its part, the Scottish Government plans to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years. With current rates of new build less than half that number, this is certainly an ambitious target – but no less essential for all that.

Taken together, these factors mean we face unprecedented challenges as we plan the future of housing and social care. Building more homes is certainly a good start. With modern techniques, this will help to modernise our affordable housing stock and make it much more flexible and responsive to older people's needs.

But population growth and natural limits on construction capacity mean that we will still have to rely on our existing housing stock to accommodate a growing number of older people well into the future. The challenge here is to re-design that stock to be adaptable to the changing needs and expectations of older people for many years to come.

With this challenge in mind, Trust Housing Association recently commissioned a series of design guides in partnership with North Lanarkshire's Health and Social Care Partnership. These guides provide specific guidance on adapting and remodelling existing stock, better use of colour and signage in housing developments for older people and creating attractive internal and outdoor spaces with improved access to daylight.

From a societal point of view, the fact that we will have many more older people in Scotland in the future who want to live active and independent lives is welcome. By commissioning these design guides, we aim to demonstrate how innovative thinking and design can help to 'future-proof' our existing housing stock so they are able to do that.

Downloadable versions of the guides are available in our useful documents section.