All our futures

Creating a healthy built environment for older people

Thursday 19 April 2018


  • Joan Rutherford, MRTPI (Rtd.) Age friendly Manchester Design Group
  • Sue Adams OBE Chief Executive of Care & Repair England
  • Nick Moule,  The University of Manchester
  • Robert Turpin, Healthcare Market Development Manager at the British Standards Institution (BSI), the UK’s National Standards Body

The health impacts of housing: An overview

Healthy ageing is a headline policy ambition, but are we creating built environments that will help to achieve that objective?

This part of the seminar will focus on the elements of domestic dwellings that can enable better, healthier ageing.

The home environment is of particular importance as in later life older people spend an increasing amount of time at home. Most of the common chronic health conditions that are more prevalent in older age (eg. respiratory illness, stroke, heart disease, depression), as well as risks to health such as falls, have a causal link to housing conditions. 

This session will examine the impacts of particular housing features on specific health conditions, considering current evidence, gaps in knowledge and the areas where further research is urgently needed.  

In particular, it will focus on the methodology and data collection systems developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to assess and quantify health impacts/ safety risks of specific elements of domestic dwellings.

BRE have concluded that poor or unsuitable housing costs the NHS in excess of £1.4b pa. Using BRE data Sue will examine in more detail the cost benefits and potential health impacts of addressing specific housing defects in the homes of older people.

Home adaptations can transform older people's ability to live well at home. However, 2 million people say that their home needs to be adapted to their needs but nearly half have not had these adaptations carried out. A recent international evidence review identified a number of studies that have quantified the potential health gains from particular home adaptations, but again noted the need for further research.

With this foundation of knowledge, the session will consider lessons for researchers, planners, designers, architects and those operating across the fields of ageing, social care, housing and wider building professions.

Austerity urbanism: Experience of neighbourhood regeneration in peripheral towns

Terraced housing where many elderly people live dominates many of our towns and cities. Some of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods are located in peripheral post-industrial towns.

This presentation will provide an overview of research undertaken through Manchester University that highlights a significant urban issue facing British society today- about what we do as a nation with rundown or marginal housing neighbourhoods. In particular I will explore the key challenges facing traditional neighbourhoods of four case study towns in Lancashire and the impact of changing government public and regeneration policies.

Since the Second World War UK governments of all political persuasions had adopted urban policies that attempted to tackle poor housing conditions and reduce neighbourhood and urban deprivation. That was until 2010. In Britain today, there is no longer a national neighbourhood renewal policy, no lead by central government to tackle deprivation and neighbourhood decline. The policy of neighbourhood renewal ended when the 2010 Coalition Government walked away from tackling the issues of urban decay in the name of austerity and neo liberalism.

The argument will be presented for restoring area based regeneration as a central plank of national social and urban policy. It proposes there is a need to recognise the challenges faced by marginal neighbourhoods of peripheral towns where urban decline is compounded by their remoter locations and confused local governance structures. A key element to neighbourhood renewal entails creating stronger support mechanisms for the elderly and vulnerable.

While much does hinge on awakening the Government to the challenges facing peripheral towns there is also the urgent need for localities to embrace radical new thinking and collaboration in building a new regeneration vision for transforming Lancashire sub regions and other similar peripheral areas by attracting greater inward investment, create greater community confidence, changing professional perspectives, building alliances and bolstering neighbourhood resilience.

Are urban designers equipped to design for older people?

Nationally - and within Greater Manchester - we know that the population is ageing.The process of ageing may be accompanied by deterioration in a range of abilities including mobility, hearing and vision loss, and cognitive decline. If we are to encourage the continued involvement of older people in community life, whether as workers, volunteers or as social actors, we need to acknowledge the existence of increasing impairments, both physical and sensory, and to design physical environments in ways that enable older people to move around outside their homes with confidence.

But how well equipped are urban designers to face the challenge of designing an inclusive environment?

Drawing on more than 40 years of professional experience as a practising planner, most recently considering the requirements of older and disabled people, this talk considers a variety of responses to the urban design challenges associated with ageing. The talk will draw on a recent initiative by the Construction Industry Council to promote the principles of creating accessible and inclusive environments, and on the work of Manchester's Age friendly Design Group and other organisations working to improve the accessibility of the built environment in this region.

Joan will argue that, not only is inclusive design often missing from the urban design curriculum, but that practitioners tend not to be updated on knowledge in this field. She concludes by suggesting that if we are to achieve an urban environment that promotes and encourages older people's involvement in community life, thereby supporting 'active ageing' then inclusive design must be at the core of the teaching of urban design students and practitioners.

Inclusivity and accessibility in the built environment – the role of regulation and standards

This presentation will focus on how to create accessible built environments in public buildings and dwellings.  It will cover Government policy, legislation and the role of professional codes of practice in ensuring inclusive designs, along with recent advances that will allow a pan-disability approach to accessibility in the future.

Access to buildings and environments is covered by Part M of Building Regulations, which provides a mandatory set of requirements for any new construction, or where a change of use has occurred.  In addition, the Equality Act (2010) requires that service providers and employers make reasonable adjustments to any physical features which might put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to an able bodied person.   Compliance with building regulations does not necessarily equate to meeting the obligations and duties of the Equality Act.

BS 8300 is a professionally developed code of practice that gives recommendations for how to design built environments.  It provides further details to designers, architects and building managers about how design features can help disabled people to make the most of their surroundings, including car parks, entrances, and additional features such as ramps, signage and guard rails.  A new edition of BS 8300 was published in January 2018, which resulted in the creation of two parts to the standard – covering internal and external environments.

During the revision process to BS 8300, several comments were made about addressing building access for people with neurodiverse conditions.  BSI has undertaken research to establish eleven built environment design themes for people who experience dementia, autism, learning difficulties and other ‘conditions of the mind’.  It is proposed to develop some new guidelines for this topic.  Once published their outcomes will be evaluated, with a view for their inclusion within BS 8300 in the future.

Event outputs