New design guides aim to ‘future proof’ Scottish housing stock for ageing population

Illustrations showing variety of colours utilised in the communal areas of a single housing development
Illustrations showing variety of colours utilised in the communal areas of a single housing development

Innovative design solutions could play a crucial role in helping to ensure that Scotland’s existing housing stock is equipped to meet the changing needs and expectations of a rapidly ageing population, Trust Housing Association has said.

The housing, support and care provider for older people has unveiled a new specially commissioned set of design guides which aim to help social landlords adapt their existing housing stock to meet the changing needs of older people.

Official projections from the National Records of Scotland are that the population of Scots aged 65 or older will rise by 53 per cent from 969,000 in 2014 to almost 1.5 million by 2039.

The Scottish Government has set itself a challenging target of delivering an average of 10,000 new affordable homes per year between 2016 and 2021. In 2015, 4,037 new units of affordable housing were completed in Scotland.

Trust strongly supports the Scottish Government’s ambitious affordable housing supply programme and believes this will give a significant boost to the proportion of Scotland’s affordable housing stock that is suitable for older people, including an increasing number who may be living with complex conditions such as dementia. But the organisation also points to the reality that a large proportion of existing housing stock will need to remain in use for many years to come. In that context, Trust believes that making cost-effective adaptations to existing stock must be a key priority to ensure this housing is better adapted to older peoples’ needs and expectations as this section of the Scottish population continues to grow.

With this objective in mind, Trust recently commissioned a groundbreaking set of design guides in partnership with North Lanarkshire’s Health and Social Care Partnership. The guides provide specific guidance on adapting and remodelling existing stock, better use of colour and signage in housing developments for older people and creating attractive internal and outdoor spaces with improved access to daylight.

Contributors to the guidance include UrbanPioneers, an Edinburgh-based landscape architecture and art practice, INCH Architecture & Design, a Glasgow-based architecture, design and research practice and Graphical House, a design consultancy also located in Glasgow.

The design guides were officially launched at a special event hosted at Forgewood Community Centre in Motherwell on Wednesday.

Speaking at the event, Trust Housing Association chief executive, Rhona McLeod, said: “All indications are that Scotland’s population is ageing quite quickly and that the number of Scots aged 65 or older will have reached almost 1.5 million by 2039. At the same time, a growing number of older people are living with complex conditions such as dementia. People’s expectations for later life are also changing with most aspiring to be able to live independent lives for as long as possible. These trends create big challenges as we plan our future supply of housing and social care.

“We all know that we need to be building many more homes to meet demand – and we strongly support the Scottish Government’s ambitious target to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years. That will make a hugely positive contribution to modernising our affordable housing stock to be more responsive to older people’s needs. But we must also acknowledge that our existing housing stock will need to remain in use and similarly responsive to older people’s needs for many years to come.”

Janice Hewitt, chief accountable officer at Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire, said: “We recognise the challenges Scotland faces from a rapidly ageing population with increasingly complex needs. We have been delighted to give our support to these practical design guides as one way of ensuring we get the very best out of our existing housing stock – and that housing and care services continue to meet the particular needs of older people.”

Rhona McLeod added: “Scotland’s population of older people continues to grow and their housing and care needs are changing – as are people’s expectations for later life more generally. With all of this in mind, these new design guides aim to show how innovative thinking and design can help to ‘future proof’ our existing housing stock so it can serve the changing needs of older people well into the future.”

Downloadable versions of the design guides are available below:

  • Colour and Wayfinding

  • Daylight Spaces
  • Remodelling
  • Share icon
    Share this article: