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We need sound foundations for homes to grow old in

23 February, 2017

Camden GP Benjamin Bromilow told an inquiry that he has elderly patients who are suffering isolation. Picture: John O’Shea

WE hope the council will take heed of the stark warnings made by Dr Benjamin Bromilow about older people’s housing.

Many older people are not simply isolated from their friends and neighbours by the buildings they live in, but also put in physical danger.

Some tenants will spend many years waiting for ground or lower floor accommodation to become available.

Some private home-owners may choose to stay in the home they have lived in for many decades, even if it means they cannot go out.

The astronomical cost of housing in Camden means that many families are spread about – sons and daughters, grandchildren forced to leave London to find an affordable home.

The weight of loneliness hangs heavy on so many of our neighbours.

We see evidence of it every day. The impact is well documented – from poorer mental health to greater risk of falling, and hospitalisation.

There is also an economic cost and a public health risk. Social isolation can affect physical health, while aspects of housing, mainly sheltered housing schemes, is in short supply.

And yet older people’s homes are often tucked away in quieter, forgotten corners of the city.

We must start to put the right foundations in place to meet the needs of older communities.

Planning and innovative design will be critical to achieving this.

Better designed housing is not the only remedy for loneliness. Transport infrastructure projects and the regeneration of open spaces can all help older people lead more socially, physically and mentally active lives.

Schemes like the Kilburn Older Voices Exchange (KOVE), who are also giving evidence to council’s panel next week, certainly made a big difference.

At a recent meeting of KOVE, it was said that 20 per cent of its members have regular access to the internet at home.

The internet has, in a kind of way, opened up the world to young people. With proper education, it can help the older generation too.

The local authority can of course plan a big role in facilitating a sense of citizenship among the elderly.

A revolutionary approach is needed. People and place must be at the heart of our planning system. Provisions for the elderly could be written into planning guidance for new developments.

We need homes you can grow old in – that don’t have to be young to live in.

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