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Technology and digital infrastructure that support future care needs must be built into all new housing, leaders from a range of sectors have urged in a report published today (26 October 2021).

The report by the Technology for our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (TAPPI) sets out 10 practical principles to build technology into housing in a way that improves life for our ageing population and wins widespread support.

Some of these principles include ensuring that all new housing is adaptable, cost-effective and person-centred.

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Following a six-month inquiry by the Housing LIN (Learning and Improvement Network), in which the panel heard from over 30 experts and people with a lived experience, the panel’s ‘Big Insights’ identified both the success factors and barriers to integrating technology into housing and care. In the forthcoming second phase of its work, the panel will develop a framework for technology and digital infrastructure in housing.

Chaired by the former Director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, Professor Roy Sandbach OBE, the panel includes senior figures from housing, care, academia, the technology industry and design. It includes Former Chief Government Architect Andy Von Bradsky and Wilhelmina Hoffman, the managing director of Silviahemmet, the charity founded by the Queen of Sweden.

Funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, the inquiry is aimed at ensuring that technology is used effectively to ensure older and disabled people can live independently in high-quality homes.

The panel adopted 10 TAPPI principles agreeing that all new housing should be:

  1. Adaptable – able to adapt to changing user needs and technological advances
  2. Co-produced – involving people to co-create solutions to inform how they want to live their lives
  3. Cost-effective – offer value for money and benefit both to individuals but also to workforces in local housing and care economies
  4. Choice-led – enabling access to more options that meet individual needs and wishes
  5. Interoperable – ability to integrate and work across systems and platforms to meet individuals’ diverse needs and aspirations
  6. Inclusive – reduce digital, health, income inequalities to enable active involvement in home, local community or networks
  7. Outcome-focussed – improve health and wellbeing to improve quality of life or maintain independence
  8. Person-centred – Putting the person first to give control over own environment, care and support needs etc
  9. Preventative – focused on prevention rather than reactive models
  10. Quality-focussed – in designing products, systems and services to ensure ‘fit for purpose’

Susan Kay, Chief Executive of Dunhill Medical Trust, commented: “Our experiences of the last 18 months have accelerated the changes that were already being made in how we as a society use technology to communicate, connect and experience health and care support. But we need to make sure that we don’t leave behind a whole generation of people who could really benefit and create yet another source of social inequality.

“That’s why we were delighted to be able to support this work which lays some solid foundations for a framework for action aimed at supporting independence, choice, safety and social engagement for everyone – not just the digital native generation.”

The report makes a number of recommendations that would see widespread use of technology in new housing design and construction – as well as tech-enabling and adapting existing housing.

These recommendations include:

  • Establishing a clear benchmark that works alongside industry codes and charters – a Minimum Digital Living Standard – setting out what is needed to live well and safely in a digital society
  • As part of a national digital strategy for transformation, create a housing and care products and services ‘marketplace’ platform that will enable easy consumer access to relevant digital products and services
  • Review and update planning policy and guidance and the regulatory framework for housing so that smart technology infrastructure is built into new homes, making them adaptable to the needs of an ageing population
  • Futureproof Government guidance on Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) so the scheme supports retrofitting and adaptations of homes for an ageing population – with a new Technology Facilities Grant

Jeremy Porteus, Chief Executive of the Housing LIN, which provided secretariat support to the panel, added: “The rapid pace of change requires a national strategy to ensure we are all equipped with the knowledge and skills required to make the most of technology. But the pandemic has shown us that older adults and people with a disability or long-term condition are more likely to be digitally excluded, despite having the most to gain.

“With time running out before the analogue to digital switchover in 2025, we have an opportunity to drive the ‘digital revolution’ across housing, health and care – putting the real needs of older people at the heart of policy and action. The TAPPI inquiry has confirmed that any project across housing, health and/or adult social care should incorporate a ‘tech strategy’ that follows the ten TAPPI principles so that older customers are not digitally excluded.

“The report suggests that TAPPI provides an iconic ‘kitemark’ that should encourage the housing sector to apply the TAPPI principles when designing, developing, managing or marketing homes.”

The panel, in its second phase, could unite existing standards and frameworks and ensure industry commitment to TAPPI principles.

Download the full TAPPI report here

The Housing LIN is a sophisticated network that brings together policymakers and practitioners in England, Wales and Scotland to exemplify innovative housing and care solutions for an ageing population. It helps connect people, ideas and resources to inform and improve the range of housing that enables older adults and disabled people live independently in a home of their choice.

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