Montana Vision left hand
Jun 16

Ageing In Place: What’s Holding Us Back?


It’s well documented that the UK has an ageing population, with record numbers of people living to 100 now being recorded and life expectancy increasing all the time.

However, the most recent Centre for Ageing Better’s State of Ageing report for 2023-2024 has found there is an increasing divide between demographics when it comes to our experiences of getting older, with poorer people in worse health and living shorter lives.

It was also found that more people are now living with major disabilities and illnesses as they get older, concerns that are exacerbated by the homes they live in, many of which pose significant health and safety risks.

There are now millions of people living in homes that have trip hazards and are both damp and cold. This in itself is bad enough but when coupled with spiralling energy costs and the cost of living crisis, people are now being forced to cut back on heating their homes – which is putting their health at even more risk.

Of the 3.5 million non-decent homes that exist in England, some 49 per cent are lived in by someone over the age of 55. Furthermore, the number of over-50s living in private rental accommodation has been climbing steadily over the last 20 years or so and the highest proportion of non-decent properties can be found in this housing sector. 

This means that older private renters are now likely to live in homes of poorer quality, restricted in their abilities to hold landlords to account and without the financial means to carry out repairs, make necessary adaptations to cover evolving physical needs, or to find more suitable accommodation.

As such, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to remain independent and age in place, which is the aim for the majority of those above a certain age. Strategic Society Centre figures show, in fact, that 80 per cent of older homeowners are keen to stay where they are.

The problem here, however, is that housing stock in the UK is currently not well suited to facilitate this, despite the fact that making properties more accessible and adapting them to accommodate a change in needs can delay the necessity for residential care by four years.

What the Centre for Ageing Better is now keen to see is a move away from the viewpoint that home adaptations are a symbol of frailty, but rather a desirable feature for homes to have, features that can allow people to remain in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible.

For example, doorways could be made wider to accommodate wheelchairs, counter tops in the kitchen could be lowered, ramps could be installed outside, walk-in showers and easy access baths could be a standard feature, flooring in kitchens and bathrooms could be anti-slip, appropriate lighting systems could be installed… there’s a huge amount that could be achieved, with relatively little strategic planning.

If you are currently concerned that your home may not be fit for purpose as you get older, get in touch with the Practical Bathing team today to see how we can help make it safer and easier to use, even as your needs change and evolve.

Impey room set LD
May 14

Home Adaptation Delays Putting Older People ‘At Risk’


Delays by local councils around the UK in making home adaptations are putting older people at increased risk of going into residential care because it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to live independently in their own homes, a new report has revealed.

Surveys show that older people are keen to continue ageing in place, the Age UK study observes, with adaptations, aids and accessible housing all essential to ensuring they can do so, while simultaneously reducing pressure on the NHS and social care.

Facilities like stairlifts and walk-in shower baths can help reduce the likelihood of slips, trips and falls, giving people greater independence, sustaining better health and reducing dependence on others for care, as well as making any future hospital discharges easier.

However, according to the report, in 2021/22 more than two-thirds of local councils took more than six months to install adaptations through the disabled facilities grant. Reasons for these delays include poor administration, poor customer services and poor communication between different teams and departments.

As such, the Step Change: Improving Delivery of the Disabled Facilities Grant report is calling for an increase in the amount of accessible age-friendly housing and quicker access to aid and adaptations to be put at the heart of the government’s vision for older people’s housing in the future.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “We know that falls cost the NHS more than £2.3 billion per year, with 30 per cent of people aged 65+ and 50 per cent of people aged 80+ falling at least once each year, so you can see how important home adaptations can be.

“Something as simple as a grab rail or a walk-in shower can make the difference between someone being able to remain at home, living independently, and having to move into a care home, at substantial cost to the taxpayer or to themselves if they have to pay their own fees.”

In terms of expense, the average cost of two hours of help each day comes to £13,200 per year, while average annual residential care costs reach £39,520, which further cements the case for prioritising home adaptations and accessibility aids.

Shower seating - Senior Couple
Apr 15

Can Garden Rooms Help Support Independent Living?


Being able to live independently and age in place is of growing interest to many around the UK, ensuring that we can continue to enjoy the same level of freedom that we had when we were younger, even as our mobility and physical needs change over time.

To facilitate independent living, it will likely be necessary to make home adaptations and alterations to ensure that it remains safe for you to live there. 

This could include, for example, installing walk-in showers, bath and shower seating and anti slip flooring in the bathroom, widening doorways throughout the house to accommodate a wheelchair, lowering the kitchen worktops and installing ramps outside.

Another home adaptation that’s becoming more popular, however, is the addition of a garden room outside. If you have or are anticipating reduced mobility but want to remain at home, a bespoke garden room could be the way to achieve this, with these spaces easily tailorable to suit your accessibility needs.

These annexes mean that you can potentially move family members into your actual home if and when you need to, while still enjoying the flexibility of having your own space and without having to move to a care home in order to be looked after. 

As we all know, care homes can be incredibly expensive and it can be very hard emotionally to leave the home you’ve lived in for so long, but a garden room represents an excellent solution to a tricky situation.

You’ll be able to retain your independence (far more so than if you did move to a care home) while having the peace of mind that relatives are nearby, able to give you the support you need, coupled with that all-important sense of familiarity that makes the house your home.

These spaces can easily be custom-built to integrate into the garden, featuring futureproof fixtures and fittings that can cater to your evolving needs, or those of a loved one. As an alternative to a care home, it’s certainly one worth exploring… and one that can actually add significant value to your property, at the same time.

shower seat - Interior of bathroom for the disabled or elderly people
Mar 12

Home Accessibility Changes To Support Sight Impairments


Continuing to live independently as we get older is certainly possible, but in order to facilitate this it may well be necessary to make certain changes and adaptations to our homes as our needs evolve over time.

It’s natural for vision to deteriorate with age, with the most common eye conditions that are likely to develop including cataracts (where the lens starts to cloud over), glaucoma (where the anterior chamber starts to narrow and block the drainage system near the iris), macular degeneration (where the retina becomes less sensitive to light) and diabetic retinopathy (where sugar buildup damages the eyes).

If you are losing your sight or have an eye condition of some kind, it is possible that you’ll have to carry out home adaptations and improvements to make your property accessible enough to support potential sight impairments.

Indoors, it can be helpful to increase the amount of natural light that comes flooding into your living spaces. An easy alteration would be to switch out heavy drapes for voile curtains or some other kind of sheer fabric, although you may find you need to make more extensive alterations, such as installing new windows to improve light levels.

Reducing trip hazards is also a must if you’re struggling with your eyesight, so make sure that any loose carpet tiles or floor planks are repaired and that the artificial lighting in each room is sufficient to keep all four corners of the space well lit.

The bathroom and kitchen in particular can represent significant health risks, so focusing on these parts of the home first can make it a safer place in which to live. 

Using anti-slip mats and other kinds of safety flooring can ensure there are no slips, trips and falls. It can also be beneficial to decorate the space in a matte finish to minimise reflective surfaces, which can be dazzling and affect vision even further.

When installing features like grab rails, shower seating, bath lifts and so on, it can be beneficial to use contrasting colours to the rest of the bathroom so you can see them more easily.

As important as it is to prioritise the inside of your home, it’s also vital that you make the exterior of the property safe, as well. 

Again, fixing any and all potential trip hazards is a must, with all paths and fenced areas well maintained and looked after. As for plants and trees, keeping everything cut back and orderly will also help reduce the risks of an accident taking place. 

Outdoor lighting can also be used to excellent effect to ensure that any obstructions are seen before they cause problems, as well as using lights around the locks and keyholes on your front and back doors to help you get in and out of the house without much trouble.

Walk in baths - Elderly swollen feet or edema leg walk into bathroom
Mar 01

Home Adaptations To Help With Arthritis


Arthritis is a very common condition that causes joint pain and inflammation, making movement more difficult than usual, particularly in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

It can be a very difficult condition to live with and there is no cure for it, although there are treatments that can slow its progress. Lifestyle changes, medication and surgery can also help you manage your symptoms, but ultimately it will likely be something that you have to live with.

As such, making changes around the house and adapting your living spaces to reflect your change in circumstances can prove very beneficial, helping you to navigate your way through your home more easily and without putting yourself at risk.

The likes of fixed ramps and automatic doors or wider doorways can be helpful if you need to use a wheelchair, while baths and showers with inbuilt handles can help you manoeuvre yourself in and out.

However, you may find that you prefer to significantly overhaul the bathroom entirely and turn it into a wet room, or perhaps install a walk-in bath to make life even easier. Thinking about how your symptoms may change over time can help you decide what adaptations to bring in.

The bathroom is perhaps the best place to begin as this is one of the most hazardous rooms in the house. Installing a shower seat can help keep you safe as you bathe and you may find slip mats of particular benefit in the shower, bath and by the toilet.

Changing your bathroom routine can also help ease your symptoms. For example, washing your hair can be very tiring, so perhaps consider using dry shampoo occasionally to provide you with some relief.

Keeping a towel warm on the radiator for when you’re ready to get out of the bath can also help, as cold can exacerbate your symptoms and cause even more joint pain and stiffness.

In the living room, consider changing the layout of the space to make it easier for you to traverse and aim to keep the floor as free from clutter as you can to reduce slips, trips and falls. You may also find that investing in sturdier furniture helps you throughout the day, as you can use the backs and arms of chairs and sofas for additional support.

As for the kitchen, lowering the cupboards means you won’t have to stretch so far to reach what you need and you could invest in ergonomic handles for your taps to make them easier to turn on and off.

Ultimately, the aim is to reduce as much strain on your joints as possible and there’s a lot that can be achieved in this regard, both in terms of home adaptations but also lifestyle changes and altering your routines to accommodate your changing mobility.

Half height shower doors - Disabled person bathroom
Jan 31

French Architects Designing For Dementia


A new experimental village on the outskirts of the French town of Dax in the south-west of France has been hitting the headlines of late, garnering praise for its comprehensive design that aims to improve the wellbeing of those suffering with Alzheimer’s.

The Village Landais Alzheimer has been modelled on the Hogeweyk dementia village in the Netherlands, the Guardian reports, which is a healthcare facility that has both the look and layout of a village.

Similarly, this latest project in Dax has been designed to resemble a traditional community, with people able to enjoy familiar architecture based on common features that can be found throughout the region.

For example, the facility includes a bastide, which is an arcaded square that houses a library and a restaurant. There are four clusters of homes to be found here, with shallow pitched roofs with clay tiles, which have been built around a green space that has trees and a pond in the middle.

In all, 108 residents call this village home, with 12 daycare patients and over 120 staff and 80 volunteers. Particular attention is paid to the needs of those with early onset dementia.

Mathilde Charon-Burnel, manager of social care projects for the region’s local authority, explained that features like circular walking routes and other such features are intended to deliver an “impression of liberty”, working to reduce the impacts of the disease.

For example, paving stones are in beige throughout to prevent strong contrasts from disturbing people, while mirrors can be concealed by shutters if necessary to avoid causing potential upset. Light and dark tones are also used to great effect, pointing people to where they should go and deflecting them away from restricted areas.

Projects such as this one are sure to become increasingly important as time goes on, with life expectancy increasing and more and more of us living to 100. 

Housing design has an incredibly important role to play in supporting people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, as well as supporting them to lead fulfilling lives even when facing diseases like dementia.

Making both homes and neighbourhoods more age-friendly will help support the evolving needs of an ageing population. 

In a recent white paper, the Social Care Institute For Excellence emphasised the importance of using population data and projections for accessible housing and planning, alongside integrated healthcare and more robust community engagement.

To help achieve age-friendly communities, home designs need to meet the needs of the entire population as it ages, with national mandatory requirements set in place for 90 per cent of new homes to be made accessible and adaptable, while ten per cent be designed to be wheelchair accessible.

Furthermore, local neighbourhood plans should feature design principles to create more age-friendly environments, while the government should invest in training to support the co-design of age-friendly environments so that the right homes can be delivered in the right places.

Half height shower doors - Bathroom with grab bars for people with disabilities
Jan 15

Levelling Up Committee Launches Accessible Housing Survey


A new online survey has been launched by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee (LUHCC), with the aim being to gather the views and experiences of disabled people when finding or adapting suitable homes to meet their needs.

The inquiry will look into the roles that governments, local authorities and developers have to play in making sure that suitable housing is delivered for disabled people, as well as what government support can be provided for disabled tenants in England’s private rented sector.

The LUHCC will also look at the National Planning Policy Framework to assess whether it ensures that housebuilding complies with the Equality Act 2010, as well as how far the government is able to ensure provision is provided to support residents who don’t live in new build homes and whether the disabled facilities grant is sufficient to deliver housing adaptations.

This new online survey includes questions that relate to finding or adapting suitable housing, the experiences that people have had when applying for the disabled facilities grant and what further action could be taken to support the accessibility of suitable housing.

Chair of the LUHCC Clive Betts commented on the news, saying: “We have received a wealth of written evidence submissions for our inquiry but I hope this survey will help us hear directly from disabled people on their views and experiences of finding or adapting suitable housing.

“In this inquiry we want to examine what the government can do to ensure disabled residents have access to accessible and adaptable housing in England and how far the planning system is helping to deliver suitable homes.”

The closing date for survey responses is February 15th, so there’s still plenty of time to make your views known. It is entirely anonymous and survey respondents are discouraged from sharing any details that might identify them when answering the questions.

shower seats - shower seats
Dec 27

‘First-Ever’ Fully Accessible Holiday Home Built In Essex


It can be very challenging for disabled people to navigate their way through public life, as much of it isn’t set up to account for specific mobility needs. Going anywhere can be very difficult, with a lot of research involved as to what facilities are provided and where, making options somewhat limited.

However, necessity is the mother of invention and it seems that it was exactly these issues that inspired builder Gary Foweraker from Clacton to build what he believes to be the first-ever fully accessible holiday home in Essex.

According to the Essex County Standard, Mr Foweraker tried to take his mother Marie, who uses a wheelchair, on holiday in the county last year but found it impossible to find a property that was sufficiently accessible to accommodate her needs.

The new holiday let features two downstairs bedrooms with full accessibility, so multiple wheelchair users can visit at the same time. One room includes a profiling bed and ceiling hoist, with a large ensuite wetroom, a mobile shower trolly, a shower chair and a high low sink.

Mr Foweraker said: “There are so many people who are disabled, you just don’t realise it, and there just aren’t enough places suitable or accessible enough for them. I have enjoyed creating this holiday home so much. It’s really been amazing. I’m hoping I can help the local community and help those who wouldn’t normally be able to access Clacton.”

Accessibility isn’t just a concern when you’re out of the house, however, and it’s important to make the necessary adaptations to your own home to take into account any changes in your physical capabilities.

There’s a lot that can be done to make your homes safer and easier to use as time goes on, whether that’s lowering the kitchen worktops to make cooking easier, installing ergonomic handles on the doors or installing shower seats in the bathroom. 

It’s likely that these changes will be made in stages and there’s no need to worry that the aesthetics of your home will be compromised, as there are many stylish options available these days.

shower bench - bathroom
Dec 21

Declutter To Stay Safe At Home


As we get older, it’s important to acknowledge that our needs are likely to change as time goes on and if we are to continue living independently, we may well have to make a few home adaptations here and there in order to facilitate this.

Mobility becomes a big concern the older we get, with joints and muscles getting weaker, which makes it far more likely that we’ll have an accident of some kind, with slips, trips and falls one of the leading causes of injury in older people.

However, there’s a lot you can do to mitigate the risks and one of the first steps you can take is to declutter the house from top to bottom. 

Having fewer belongings getting in your way will instantly make it easier and safer for you to navigate your way through your home – and the added benefit is that cleaning will be easier as well!

If you rely on mobility aids like stairlifts or similar, it’s essential that you’re able to move around with ease and if there are lots of items on the floor, this will naturally be quite dangerous, so it’s certainly worth taking the time to see if there are any possessions you can get rid of.

When you start decluttering, make sure that you don’t overwhelm your spaces with stuff. You still need to be able to move around safely as you work, so perhaps do a little and often at first, making sure that you don’t box yourself into any corners or that you don’t put boxes behind doors, which can be hazardous if you need to leave the house in a rush.

Tackle each room one at a time so you don’t overface yourself – and perhaps consider asking a friend or relative to lend a helping hand. You may find that the more you do, the more you want to do. Before you know it, your home will be a significantly safer place in which to live.

Indiana 1 bath
Nov 15

What Is Universal Home Design?


Throughout our lifetime, our needs will inevitably change from the time we were babies with no independence at all through to adulthood where we are more capable of taking care of ourselves. As time goes on and we get older, our needs will likely change once again, with the chances of us experiencing mobility issues increasing as we age.

Of course, it’s not just age that can have an impact on how well we’re able to live in our own homes, with injury and illness also potentially placing restrictions on us in this regard as well.

This is where universal home design can really come into its own, ensuring that the houses we live in are built with accessibility in mind from the outset, rather than having to make adjustments over time in line with our changing needs.

Building properties that include features to enable easy adaptation makes sense, given that change is absolutely inevitable – and doing so can ensure that people are able to continue living in their homes for as long as possible, retaining their independence as they age.

But it’s not just what’s inside the home that will facilitate this. The location of the property is also key and ensuring that properties are either close to local amenities like healthcare sites, shops, leisure and recreation, and so on is also essential to help people age in place.

And, of course, material choice should also be taken into account at the design stage to help ensure that our homes keep us healthy and don’t have an adverse effect. Building good-quality properties are more energy efficient, for example, and have better ventilation, which means they’re less likely to be affected by damp, mildew and mould.

Currently, the majority of homes are built to suit the needs of active adults, but this can prove dangerous after a certain point – but this is where the concept of universal design can provide a solution, a term first coined by architect Ronald L Mace.

The idea here is that everything from the building and the environment to technology and products should be attractive and practical for the widest range of people possible, no matter what their individual abilities are, or their age, gender or physicality.

For older people, it’s possible to use the principles of this design concept to review and update their current home or build something entirely bespoke that serves both their present and future needs, all at the same time.

For example, home features could include the likes of wider doorways, height-adjustable counters, grab bars in bathrooms, shower seating, lever handles on doors and taps, walk-in showers, easy access storage areas, good lighting systems and so on.

Even some of the smallest changes can make a big difference to our ability to stay at home as we get older, ensuring ease of use and improving our level of comfort, independence and quality of life, while also helping to reduce the risk of accidents at home.