Last month, the WA government released The Seniors Housing Strategy Discussion Paper. This paper outlined their intention to introduce strategies for improving access to affordable and appropriate housing for Western Australian seniors’ so that, “they can Age in Place”. The proposed strategies target seniors who are approaching retirement or are working beyond the traditional retirement age and have limited financial sources and low income.
Why are the strategies important?
It is no secret that the Australian population is aging. By 2050, the number of Western Australians between 65 and 84 is expected to double to one million people. Whilst, the number aged 85 and over is expected to quadruple. As a result, there will be more Western Australians than ever in need of appropriate housing. “Baby Boomers” who make up a large portion of this demographic increasingly express the desire to age within a familiar setting. They are choosing to remain in the family home, or downsizing to a residence, rather than opting for retirement villages or nursing homes.
Housing challenges for seniors
Seniors face a number of housing challenges which have a negative impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Unlike younger Western Australians, they also have a limited ability to generate on-going income beyond retirement. If they are unable to be housed appropriately, this drop in or loss of income increases the level and cost of support they may need from other State Government agencies.
Downsizing is a major housing issue for seniors. The lack of affordable homes in preferred areas means that seniors are being forced to move to the outskirts of the metropolitan area in order to downsize. This shifts them away from the social and support networks in their current local community. The properties they relocate into are often inappropriately designed and costly, releasing little of the equity from the sale of their larger family home.
Finally, the homes that seniors are living in aren’t necessarily designed for accessible use, which raises the possibility of a second move to cater to this and prevent falls and injury.
Ageing in Place
The focus of ageing in place is to ensure seniors are able to live in their chosen location for as long as possible regardless of increasing in care needs. Aging in place for both seniors living in both regional and metropolitan areas is focused on maintaining their quality of life in their local community and has the potential to reduce the social isolation and cognitive decline which may result from relocating to unfamiliar surroundings.
Planning to make affordable housing, suitable for accessible use will support seniors to transition into age appropriate accommodation earlier. This has the potential to increase quality of life earlier into retirement, and see it maintained for a greater period of time without the stress of additional relocations each time care needs increase.
The Government is proposing to commit to an effective long term housing strategy for seniors and has opened the door for public comment and feedback. As leaders in Retirement Living, Accessible Housing Design, Aged Care, Transitional Care and Design for Dementia, SPH architecture + interiors have taken a particular interest in this proposed strategy.
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