Negative perceptions hindering adoption of vital home adaptations
Following research suggesting that local authorities should review and simplify the home adaptation process, the Centre for Ageing Better has found that people are putting off making vital changes to their home due to the clinical and stigmatising appearance of mobility equipment.
Older people with health or mobility conditions are delaying making essential changes to their homes, such as installing handrails and ramps, due to the clinical and stigmatising appearance of products, as well as the complexity in getting support and information, the Centre Ageing Better’s new report says.
“We need attractive products as standard and a much greater range to be available, including from high street retailers.” Dr Rachael Docking
The charity believes that a greater range of more attractive products would allow people to adapt their homes early, maintain their independence as they age and feel less self-conscious.
Ageing Better calls on retailers, buyers, designers and manufacturers to come together to provide more attractive products for people and be more visible in the mainstream market.
Dr Rachael Docking, Senior Evidence Manager, Centre for Ageing Better, commented: “We need attractive products as standard and a much greater range to be available, including from high street retailers. We also need everyday products like kitchens and bathrooms to be designed inclusively, so they’re suitable for all ages.
“No one wants to buy a product ‘for older people’.”
In the charity’s last report, ‘Homes that help: A personal and professional perspective on home adaptations’, older individuals and their families, health professionals, handyperson services and local authorities were interviewed by Northumbria University. 30 individuals were also documented about the way they navigated their homes through a camera study.
The evidence demonstrated that participants with mobility issues often made the decision to adapt their homes too late, often after a crisis had occurred or following a long period of struggling to move around their homes and carry out basic day-to-day activities like washing.
Additionally, interviewees said that they often used harmful coping strategies, such as limiting their food and drink intake to avoid using the bathroom, using baby wipes instead of bathing, and sleeping on the sofa as they were unable to climb the stairs to their bedroom.
Many people remarked that the clinical appearance of equipment was off-putting because they associated them with ageing and vulnerability, describing items as functional rather than attractive and that it would make their homes feel like a hospital.
One participant commented: “Couldn’t grab rails be designed by some wonderful person at one of our great universities, to make them look more beautiful than they really are now? Because they’re ugly and horrible. And I don’t want to have ugly, horrible things in my house.”
This also ties in with Mira Shower’s recent study that found that over 65s are feeling younger and want products that are fashionable rather than functional.
An overwhelming 73 percent of those polled said that brands do not do enough to offer stylish, functional products for those over 65 years old.
Dr Docking said: “Most people over 65 live in ordinary homes, rather than specialist housing, and this is where they want to stay as they grow older.
“Adapting and improving homes can vastly improve people’s comfort and enable them to maintain their independence and dignity.
“Evidence suggests that most of us will experience some difficulty with day-to-day activities at some point in our lives, and our research shows that there is much greater benefit to makings changes to homes early on, before you reach crisis point and risk falls, injury and a much-reduced quality of life.”
Data provided by the NHS shows that almost one quarter of men and 31 percent of women above 65 struggles with one or more Activity of Daily Living – such as washing, dressing, eating and going to the toilet – which is around 3.3 million people.
By people’s late 80s, around one third of people have difficulty undertaking five or more of these activities unaided.
The charity also proposed that the Government should use the £98 million ‘Healthy Ageing’ fund, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to invest in products and services that are ‘inclusively designed’ for people of all ages.
For instance, kitchens and bathrooms that are designed to be accessible for people of all ages, rather than just creating products for older individuals.