The DesHCA project is all about designing better homes for us as we age, particularly if we experience cognitive change.
Some of us may experience cognitive change that comes with dementia, but that does not mean we lose our desire to remain in our own homes for as long as possible, feeling and being safe, and enjoying our lives with our families and friends.
The DesHCA team are working with older people and a range of partners from the housing sector to identify housing design features that can be implemented in existing and new housing. We have started by examining what is already known about designing for healthy cognitive ageing. We have found that whilst there are many good ideas and experiments, these have rarely consulted older people about what they want and also have not considered how to deliver improvements on a larger scale.
Looking at existing statistical data, we have found supportive adaptations to housing for older people are not necessarily going to the people who need them and that many older people are living in poor housing conditions. The Centre for Ageing Better reports that the UK has over two million homes with older household heads which are substandard – cold, damp or having trip hazards for example.
Our next steps in DesHCA are to look in depth at older people’s own views about their homes, what they like, what they find difficult and what they might like to change. We are particularly interested in the views of people living with dementia. We are doing this by asking people to map their homes for us and tell us about them from their own perspectives. We are asking people what they would like to change, and what changes they would like to make. We are also collecting electronic monitoring data about a selection of houses and how people use them over the seasons.
We will use all this information to generate new housing designs, which we will refine in consultation with older people and with professionals from all areas of the housing sector. We want to understand how older people see things and the views of housing sector professionals, so that the solutions we propose make sense to everyone and are practical, achievable and affordable.