Age, home and community: a strategy for housing for Scotland's older people 2012-2021

A strategy for providing housing and housing-related support for older people in Scotland.


New housing in Scotland should be accessible and adaptable and meet the needs of older people.

7.1 Scotland needs more homes to meet the needs of our changing population. Building new, affordable and sustainable housing is a priority for government, with a range of house types and sizes that encourages mobility in the housing system. This will enable downsizing for those who wish it. With the current economic situation and rate of increase in the number of older people, we have to be realistic and recognise that only a small proportion of older people will live in new build housing.

7.2 Owner occupancy remains higher among older people than the general population, with 75% of people aged 60 and over being home owners. [52] This gives them options for moving home, if suitable and attractive properties are available. Availability of suitable housing for older people can be a particular problem in remote and rural areas. It is, therefore, important that the housing that is built makes the maximum impact, meeting the needs of an ageing population, in terms of its potential to accommodate people with particular mobility needs. Many local authorities and housing associations now include a proportion of wheelchair accessible properties in new developments. We encourage early engagement between house builders, local authorities and communities in development planning to ensure new housing meets the needs of the local population, including older people.

7.3 While older people benefit from homes that are easy to manage and maintain, it should not be assumed that they want small one bedroom properties. People now reaching older age, who wish to downsize, are likely to want a reasonably-sized property with at least one spare bedroom, giving flexibility so that friends and relatives can visit, maintaining their social networks. A spare bedroom can also accommodate a carer. Good storage space is also important. Many older people spend most of their time at home and have a lifetime of possessions, and it supports their mental wellbeing to retain them. Some also have bulky mobility equipment. Homes should be easily accessible and adaptable, in the event of reduced mobility, with a level access shower or wet room. As older people make greater use of technology at home, integrated provision of broadband will support the installation of telecare equipment, as well as home computer equipment.

Affordable housing supply

The supply of affordable homes in all housing tenures that meet the needs of older people should be increased.

7.4 Housing is a key part of our physical, economic and social fabric, and increasing supply is a vital part of our efforts to build a better and fairer Scotland. We have expanded housing supply programmes and accelerated funding where appropriate. Over the period 2008-11, the Scottish Government invested a record £1.7 billion in affordable housing, achieving our target to approve around 21,500 new/improved affordable homes.

7.5 Our vision is for a housing system by 2020 which provides an affordable home for all. To achieve this, we will need a strong recovery in the construction sector and a substantial increase in the number of homes of all types, including housing to meet the needs of older people and disabled people. Our housing strategy, Homes Fit for the 21 st Century [53] set out a comprehensive package of proposals to revitalise housing supply. It recognised that radical and innovative measures are required to increase supply and maximise housing choice and quality. The public purse is under huge financial strain, which is why we need creative and innovative approaches to deliver maximum value.

7.6 The Scottish Government has pledged to deliver 30,000 affordable homes over the next five years. The 30,000 total includes homes provided through the 2011 Innovation and Investment Fund; developments by housing associations in Edinburgh and Glasgow; and the National Housing Trust. In recognition of the vital role of social housing in providing people with an affordable home and a platform for getting on in life, at least two thirds of our 30,000 target will be for social rent. This will help to meet the most severe housing needs in our country.

7.7 The budget for affordable housing supply for the next three years will be over £600 million. While this is lower than in previous years, the Scottish Government is placing greater emphasis on increasing leverage and innovation to maintain the level of new affordable house building and to deliver our housing commitment. The budget includes two tranches of funding totalling £111 million invested in new affordable housing through the Innovation and Investment Fund. Over 4,300 affordable homes will be supported through the two rounds of the Fund and Scottish Government funding to Glasgow and Edinburgh Councils through the Transfer of Management and Development Funding. This includes homes for older people and disabled people.

7.8 The 2011 Innovation and Investment Fund has maintained momentum in council house building and produced a high number of quality bids from housing associations at subsidy levels which would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Bids to the innovation stream of the Fund have produced a number of new ideas that may be developed into useful models in the future.

Case study: Midlothian Council's new extra care housing

As part of its second phase of new council house building, Midlothian Council is building a new extra care housing development with 32 flats in Penicuik. Part of the funding has been provided by the Scottish Government's Innovation and Investment Fund for Council Housing.

The development will help to address the increased demand for affordable housing suitable for older people, who want to retain their independence, but need care and support. It will be sustainable and offer a more cost-effective service than current models of care. The flats are designed for people with varying needs, including restricted mobility, hearing, sight or cognitive function. The design has also been informed by best practice for assisting people with varying degrees of dementia, as Midlothian has been a designated Dementia Demonstrator site.

The development includes a communal hub building with facilities including a lounge, restaurant, cafe and Wi-Fi access. Care staff will also be based at the hub, and some of the facilities will be available for use by the general public.

What we will do

7.9 We will work to develop new housing that is suitable for older people by:

  • Developing our new housing supply programme. We are discussing with stakeholders how to deliver a forward programme of new housing, which continues to achieve high rates of leverage and also allows local authorities and housing associations to plan ahead with confidence. We will seek to ensure that the needs of older people and disabled people are appropriately reflected in the new programme.
  • Addressing barriers. We will provide practical advice about the development of supported housing, the issues to be addressed and ways to do this. This will include ways to achieve an integrated package of funding for both construction work and service provision. We will support the objective within the wider Reshaping Care programme to put in place arrangements so that we make best use of resources from all sources ( e.g. NHS, local authorities and benefits) to meet individual support needs.


Housing that is suitable for older people should be well-located, with easy access to amenities and transport links.

7.10 New housing that meets the needs of older people will contribute to helping them to remain at home and reduce the need for adaptations. Scottish Planning Policy [54] requires that new housing developments should include a variety of house types and sizes, reflecting local community needs as set out in Housing Need and Demand Assessments. [55] Housing Need and Demand Assessments support strategic planning, providing robust information about housing need and demand, and taking account of demographic change. This will help local authorities to understand existing housing patterns and the number of older people requiring housing.

7.11 The Scottish Government's objectives of creating successful places and achieving quality residential environments should guide the whole process of delivering new housing. A well integrated mix of land uses is important to all of the community, but for older people, the importance may increase. It can be difficult to find suitable sites, but for new housing to be attractive to older people, it needs to be built on level ground, with good landscaping or paving and lighting. Easy access to transport links and amenities is important, particularly in rural areas. This helps to reduce isolation, which is likely to occur if people are unable to go out and be active in their communities.

What we will do

7.12 We will promote the development of housing that is attractive and well located for the needs of older people by:

  • Influencing local planning. We will work to increase awareness of the features of new housing that are important to older people and how they can be built into new developments.

Building standards

Older people should be able to find housing, that is accessible and meets their needs.

7.13 A greater variety of new homes which are attractive to older people could be helpful in supporting the housing market and in releasing larger family homes. This includes housing that can be adapted to meet older people's needs as required. However, attractive and accessible homes will appeal to many people, not just those who are older. Scottish Building Standards [56] already include a range of measures to improve accessibility and ease of use in new homes. As the Building Standards apply to all new homes in both the private and public sectors, they will ensure that all new homes built in Scotland are both more immediately accessible and simpler to adapt to suit the changing needs and abilities of the occupants.

7.14 Scottish Building Standards also require new homes to be energy efficient - well insulated with efficient heating systems, which are effectively controlled. This ensures that the cost of heating a home is minimised, which is of particular importance where there is a desire or need for warmer room temperatures or longer heating periods. Both of these may be preferred by a range of households, including older people.

7.15 In May 2011, sustainability labelling was introduced to the Building Standards and is applicable to all new buildings. Its aims are to encourage more sustainable buildings, through two optional enhanced upper levels to which developers can aspire, and for such benefits to be formally recognised. One aspect of the measures aims to address quality of life issues, such as flexible living, working and studying patterns for individuals, groups and families. This includes an additional space for an electric wheelchair or a bicycle; a dedicated space for home working; and a 'quick start' guide for new occupants to optimise a home's performance. It is anticipated this will not only assist in meeting the needs of our ageing population, but also the wellbeing of the wider population.

7.16 Housing for Varying Needs [57] was published in 1998 and forms part of the criteria for receipt of Scottish Government funding for new house building by housing associations. It sets out good practice on the design of housing to achieve flexibility and suitability for people of all abilities. However, with advances in Scottish Building Standards in relation to accessibility, there is a question mark as to whether Housing for Varying Needs still has a role to play. We, therefore, plan to examine Housing for Varying Needs, alongside Building Standards and Lifetime Homes to assess whether there is a case for streamlining the standards used across different housing tenures.

What we will do

7.17 We will make new housing more suitable for older people by:

  • Ensuring appropriate building and design standards. We will work closely with public and private sector housing providers to review whether current building and design standards meet the needs of older people and others with particular needs in our communities.


We should encourage a range of new models of housing to increase choice and support independent living for older people.

7.18 We are keen to encourage the development of new and innovative models of housing that enable older people to maintain their independence in the community. As discussed in Chapter 5, sheltered housing is changing. New build housing with care and support often offers services to the wider community, expanding the provision of preventative support and building social networks. Other new forms of housing include co-housing, where people live together in a group which shares common aims and activities, while also having their own self-contained accommodation. Retirement villages can also provide another option for older people, who wish to live in a community setting with support and care available on site.

7.19 The Housing Our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation report, [58] published in 2009, considered how best to address the challenge of providing homes that will meet the needs and aspirations of older people in future. It includes case studies from across Europe of different approaches to housing and care and identified ten key design elements for housing for older people, including space and flexibility; adaptability; shared facilities; energy efficiency; and storage. It concluded that housing tuned to the priorities of older age can appeal to those prepared to plan for future care needs to trade in existing homes for something new.

Case study: Vivarium Trust and Co-housing

Vivarium Trust is undertaking a pilot project in Fife to develop Scotland's first co-housing community of around 20 - 30 homes, with high ecological design standards, for the over 50's. A preferred site has been identified, and Vivarium is currently working with the land owner, a major housing association and a bank to develop a legal and financial structure to move the project forward. The project aims to ensure access to housing, which is affordable to people with a range of incomes, through either a mixed tenure or mutual ownership model.

Each resident of a co-housing community has their own individual home, designed for independent living. Residents are also part of an 'intentional' community, with communal facilities, often in the form of a common building. All aspects of the development and management of co-housing projects are undertaken by the residents.

The benefits of co-housing for older people include affordable housing, which helps to minimise living costs through energy efficiency, ecological design and sharing of facilities; reduced social isolation; mutual support and a sense of community; ongoing active responsibility for their own circumstances; and concern for the environment.

Case study: The Quarries

The Quarries is a new development of 58 amenity flats, built by Dunedin Canmore Housing Association, for older people in Edinburgh. All flats are wheelchair adaptable, and wet floor showers are installed throughout. The development has two residents' lounges, as well as a courtyard garden, outdoor exercise equipment and a community space for use by the wider community.

The Quarries is part of an ongoing programme of regeneration and was built to house the residents of a 1960's sheltered housing complex, which was in poor condition and difficult to let. Capital costs were funded through Housing Association Grant from the City of Edinburgh Council and private finance by Dunedin Canmore.

One of the main objectives of the project was to minimise the building's carbon footprint and reduce energy costs for residents. The building is highly sustainable and energy efficient, with a communal gas heating system and high insulation standards. Heating bills are estimated at £15 per month. A range of activities is planned for residents and the local community within the community wings, and the quality of the environment and amenity provision should support improvements in health.

Case study: Assisted Living

McCarthy & Stone has provided Assisted Living (Extra Care) accommodation since 2000 in England and Wales. It is now developing this type of housing in Scotland for people aged over 70. The Assisted Living model provides purpose-built one and two bedroom apartments, which are privately owned by residents. Communal facilities and on-site flexible care are available and can adapt to meet residents' changing needs.

Key elements include: management by a registered Care at Home support service; on site domestic assistance and personal care; wheelchair accessibility; waitress service restaurant; and a residents' lounge and function room.

Assisted Living offers residents a manageable apartment to ensure their continued independence in a safe and secure environment. Most residents move to this type of housing from a larger property, which enables them to release equity, as well as freeing up larger homes. Choice is increased by enabling residents to retain home ownership and buy into care and support services as they need them. This type of housing can also help people to maintain independence for longer and delay or reduce the need for full-time residential care.

What we will do

7.20 We will work to encourage new types of housing for older people by:

  • Promoting new housing models. We will encourage the development of new models of housing with care and support in all tenures, which help older people to maintain independent living in the community.

Our vision for 2021 is that a greater proportion of new housing will be suitable for and attractive to older people.



Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government St Andrew's House Regent Road Edinburgh EH1 3DG

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