PROPERTY Tackling institutional ageism is not

easy, and requires a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach, if we are going to come anywhere near

addressing the changing needs of an ageing population.


As a housing and care provider, our job is to enable people to continue to live fulfilling lives for as long as possible, and to provide properties which facilitate this. However, the ageist assumptions around older people that continue to persist in our society, exacerbated by the inherent bias in policy, the media and popular culture, don’t reflect the reality of the majority of over-65s in society.

This attitude can be hugely damaging to people’s physical and mental health as they age. In fact, a study in 2017 found that those with positive self-perceptions of their own ageing process live an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative perceptions, with a second study finding a higher risk of depression and anxiety among those with negative ageing perceptions. It’s clear therefore that ageism needs to be addressed for both individual and societal benefits.

Societal ageism is a huge problem to tackle but recent reviews, such as That Age Old Question and A New Vision For Older Workers, are helping in bringing this issue to the forefront and shining a light on the steps that need to be taken to enable people over the age of 65 to work and live better for longer. However, there is still more to be done, especially when it comes to housing policy.

There is still a commonly held view that ‘babyboomers’ are still a significant part of the housing crisis, with the belief that all people over 65 years of age are homeowners sitting on vast amounts of property wealth. Because of this myth, and because the percentage of older people in the private rented sector is currently small (5.6%), this means that their needs are oſten overlooked. Affordability is a big issue, with the HAPPI 5 report identifying that half of older households in the private rented sector will no longer be able to afford their rent when they retire, leading to a potential homelessness ticking time bomb.

The HAPPI 5 report also concluded that there will be a significant demand for more affordable rented homes for older people over the next 30 years, with at least 38,000 homes a year needed, 12,000 of which should be Extra Care homes.

There are also a number of other issues which need to be discussed, such as whether BAME, LGBT specific housing is required and whether age-segregated housing is really the right approach as the over 65 population continues to grow.

Tackling institutional ageism is not easy, and requires a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach, if we are going to come anywhere near addressing the changing needs of an ageing population. That’s why, at Housing 21’s annual conference in October, we addressed the issue head on, bringing together academics and practitioners to discuss housing and inequalities and what policy changes and actions are needed to tackle institutional ageism in the UK. From recognising how existing inequalities can be exacerbated in older age, to analysing what consequences the lack of a holistic housing policy has for older populations, our conference brought together representatives from across the housing sector, academia and policy to tackle one of the biggest issues facing the housing and care sector at this time.

We are all ageing, yet ageism is still considered an acceptable prejudice. It’s time that we worked together across disciplines to address the negative effect ageism has on all sectors of society, and help us all to age positively and live longer and happier lives.


All older people are not the same, tackling one part of institutional ageism does not mean we have tackled it all. Part of cutting out this ageism is not grouping all older people together, rather we need to consider their individual needs - something care organisations must be aware of.

While people oſten want to maintain their independence for as long as possible, we have to consider that, whilst people may be living longer, this isn’t always in good health. People are living with a range of comorbidities and that means the whole of society, not just care homes and social housing but also government, must be ready to accommodate this. Especially as more people are growing old without children, traditional assumptions of people having family to help and deal with issues as well as providing unpaid care will need to be addressed. It is essential that older people do not feel like a burden to their friends, family or society.

We are seeing increasing segregation between where different age groups live and interact. One way to address this is to encourage greater interaction within schemes which involve all age groups. Care homes should maintain and further their work around their activities and events which proactively encourage this interaction. This intergenerational interaction will encourage all generations to see the person for who they are rather than defining people by their age.

Additionally, we are still hearing about significant issues within the LGBTQ, BAME and other communities in terms of them feeling comfortable with having their care needs met without fear of judgement or prejudice. The care sector must work tirelessly to ensure these groups feel included, comfortable and respected in care homes and social housing. - 21 -


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