Designing more age-friendly houses that support ageing in place could help ease the burden on the aged care system, according to a new study.

Dr Sarah Sinclair

The research, published by RMIT, investigated the views of paid and informal carers on how a person’s home influences their need for care, and if it can improve the quality of care provided in the home.

Of more than 100 paid and family caregivers surveyed, ninety-five per cent said housing design and location influenced the level of care needed.

Eighty-eight per cent agreed design affected their capacity to deliver care and 95 per cent said good design supported the delivery of cognitive, physical, social and medical needs.

Any housing design features that make everyday tasks easier to complete and supports seniors to age well in their home reduces the need for, the level of, and the time spent on care delivery.

Dr Sarah Sinclair

Three quarters believed home design was very important to support ageing in place.

The findings should encourage home buyers to give their future needs more thought, research lead Dr Sarah Sinclair from the RMIT School of Economics, Finance and Marketing said.

“We need to reconsider the features we want in our homes that support health and independence as we age, to minimise the need for external care,” she said.

Dr Sinclair said capital expenditure on better designed homes for older people would pay dividends as baby boomers entered the aged care system.

“Any housing design features that make everyday tasks easier to complete and supports seniors to age well in their home reduces the need for, the level of, and the time spent on care delivery.

“This can generate significant private and public economic value, through offsetting aged care costs.”

Features of age-friendly homes

The most important features of age-friendly homes including step-free entrances, wide corridors, hobless showers and ground-level toilets, as well as wider internal doors and corridors, bathroom grabrails, lever taps and non-slip flooring, the researchers found.

The report says more research is needed to work out how to provide incentives to include these features in general housing stock as the population ages, although it says the market will likely respond to demand from an ageing population.

“Providing information to consumers on which attributes are most likely to support their future needs is vital to stimulating demand in the market and subsequently supply,” it says.

About 1.3 million older Australians need help with everyday activities, but for one in three those needs aren’t met, the researchers say.

 Eighty-three per cent of Australians over 60 prefer to live in their own home.

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