This week’s blog comes from Yehia Nasr, Digital Communications Officer at the Centre for Ageing Better. Yehia went looking for some personal perspectives to better understand just how simple home adaptations can help people in later life remain healthy, active and able to do the things they want to. Find out more about the Centre for Ageing Better here.
Evidence shows that installing adaptations and improvements to homes can be of huge benefit to our health and wellbeing as we age. We often talk about the need to deliver home adaptations. Evidence shows that living in a suitable, accessible home is crucial to a good later life, and home adaptations can play a big part if done well. I think it’s important to get other people’s perspective, though, beyond formal research and reports. Making changes to our homes is something very personal to many people.
In early 2018, Foundations put me in touch with Peabody housing association. I wanted to hear the stories of people who benefited through having adaptations installed in their home. On my visits with Peabody I got to experience first-hand how much these changes truly meant to the person and their family. The power of the adaptations wasn’t manifested only in what it allowed people to do, but also in what it prevented from happening.
‘Without the adaptation, I would have had to move out’ – a phrase I heard repeated countless times.
Making aids and adaptations can help us all to live in accessible homes
Having suffered a stroke in his early 50s, Andy struggled with seemingly simple everyday activities like making toast or using his bathroom. He tells me that he would find it too overwhelming and that he feared having a bigger stroke or haemorrhage.
Sitting in his colourful garden, Andy says, ‘I didn’t believe after stroke, how hard it was, just to get yourself washed and shaved and showered.’
Fortunately, something quite simple and relatively cost-effective helped improve things for Andy. He had a wet room installed. And now he feels ‘like a king’. The physical environment in which Andy lived was strongly affecting his mental health and reducing his functional ability, one of the core pillars of healthy ageing. ‘If I didn’t have the help that I have had I would have lost hope and just simply faded away.’
Helping people to live in the homes they love for longer
Naturally, home is where most people want to be, with 80% of homeowners aged 65 and over wishing to stay where they are rather than move house.
One person said to me: ‘Without the help of the grant, I would never have stayed. I would have moved. Sell it and go away again. I am 75 now, it’s a bit of a disturbance, after living one place for 42 years.’
Whether they had been living in the same house for a couple of years or a couple of decades, I got to hear about how much the home meant to this group of people. It would even occasionally make me feel uneasy about intruding with my camera, filming in such a personal space.
Norma, a resident of Beckingham, like Andy lived alone in a house that wasn’t entirely suitable for her. Having recently bought a bungalow, she didn’t want to move again, but she also couldn’t remain there for much longer as her personal circumstances changed.
Both the outside world and the shower were inaccessible for her. Unable to bathe, because of fear that she’d have a third fall in the shower, she became agitated about her noticeable lack of hygiene:
‘How can you be happy when you [can] smell yourself?’
Both Andy and Norma were eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), which helps people make changes to their home so that they can live there for longer.
But the DFG does more than just help Norma and Andy get a wet room or a ramp. It’s not simply about them showering. By allowing them to stay in their home for longer and increase their independence, it’s enabled them to regain the ability to do the everyday tasks we all take for granted.
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