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September 1 2008

Lisa Barry, Managing Director of SSL Access, has called for a voluntary take up of the government’s “lifetime homes” standard within the construction sector.  This embodies a series of regulations relating to such aspects as widened door frames for wheelchair access, structural strength within the staircase to accommodate a wheelchair lift, an unobstructed route for a hoist from bedroom to bathroom, sockets at waist level, wheelchair friendly parking and downstairs showers.

Such standards, if adopted, allow properties to be future proofed against changing need in accordance with the demands of demographic change.  If incorporated at the construction stage, this removes the need for costly and disruptive modifications at a later date. 

Already 75% of over-nineties live independently in private housing. By 2010, half of all new households will be occupied by over-65s.  This shift represents significant financial opportunity.  According to the 2006 Family Resources Survey disposable income of the 10 million strong disabled and mobility-impaired community in the UK equates to a combined annual spending power of £80bn, a potential market to which developers may take heed.

Appealing beyond base economics however Lisa contends:” I know that, in the society we inhabit today, it is money that wins arguments and a sound economic case will always be the best hope of change. But we should never lose sight of the fact that it is also about people.  And the generation of elderly people we are dealing with now should have the best facilities that we can possibly provide for them. Nobody deserves it more than them.”

Should neither inducement promote change by 2010 the government will introduce mandatory legislation by 2013.


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