Whether moving into a new house or embarking on a self-build project, the end goal for homeowners is usually twofold – to establish roots and to increase equity and property value. Implementing a forward-thinking design and an accessible layout as well as including plans for products such as a home lift can ensure a home comfortably adapts to changes in living demands in future years. This can also provide an attractive proposition for potential buyers, if a sale is eventually planned.
Future proofing can go some way towards providing financial security against external factors such as the economy, interest rates and fluctuations in an area’s popularity. Fundamentally, this requires advance planning for the long term. Making sure homes can successfully accommodate changes to the way we live. A growing family, disability and long-term health conditions can all affect the way space in the home is used.
The UK housing market has seen distinct changes over the past few decades which have enabled new and renovated properties to perform in more efficient and effective ways. Homeowners have taken the opportunity to invest in eco-friendly designs and greener home alterations. Smart technology and the provision of home automation continues to grow in popularity.
However, alongside these high-profile alterations, another home transition is taking shape. Cosmetic renovations that follow trends for a few years are becoming eclipsed by home alteration projects that provide longevity and allow residents to age well in situ, with safety and independence at front of mind.
There are nearly 12 million people in the UK age 65 years and over, according to Age UK. By 2030, one in five of us will fall within this age group. With people now living further into old age, many wish to continue to live comfortably in their multi-floor family home for longer. Moving to later living apartments is often at a heavy financial cost. It can shatter long-standing neighbourhood friendships leading to loneliness and isolation and a compromise in the type of property available often results in apartment living due to lack of available bungalows. According to statistics provided by the NHBC (National House Building Council), the proportion of new single-storey homes plummeted from 14% in 1989 to just 2% in 2018.
Lack of Accessible Homes
Unfortunately, many existing multi-floor homes were constructed with younger generations in mind and over time features such as stairs and bathrooms can become potentially difficult to navigate as people move into later life or experience a decline in health. A 2018 review of the Disabled Facilities Grants system (which operates in England and Wales) states: “only 7% of homes in England have basic accessibility features such as downstairs toilets and level access”. Therefore, there are strong opportunities to maximise on home investment by upgrading the interiors of existing properties to meet accessible living requirements.
Sensitive adaptation of a multi-floor home, to accommodate the needs of older persons and those with mobility requirements, can provide future proofed living well into the future. The 2018 Disabled Facilities Grants review commented: “The home is central to everyone’s lives, but is particularly important for disabled and older people, as it is where they spend most of their time. Increasing numbers are living alone, especially in later life. Ability to get in and out of the home, move around inside, access the bathroom, receive friends, cook and go to bed has a significant effect on people’s dignity, autonomy and wellbeing.”
Installation of a Discreet Home Lift
By addressing the need for accessible living from the outset, it’s possible to reduce the disruption and expenditure of further building alterations in the future, opening up the property for a wider range of prospective buyers. Tackling the need to move between floors is a perennial problem for older and less mobile people. Overcoming this by installing one of the contemporary yet discrete home lifts on the market means a home is immediately future proofed.
For existing homeowners who are currently undertaking building work, or for those self-builders just starting out on a project, the inclusion of future proofing designs and adaptations alongside the more popular choices of energy efficiency, ventilation and lighting improvements, is recommended. With a rising number of disabled and older property buyers, the home adaptation and mobility market should not be overlooked.
Manufacturers in the mobility sector have made significant technological and design advances in the last decade, resulting in products for the home that are safe, attractive and affordable. The next generation home lift for example, can now be a key addition to any property as it is sleek and unobtrusive in design compared to domestic lifts of old. These home lifts not only provide obvious safety benefits but they can help enhance lifestyle opportunities and in turn, raise the property’s desirability in the housing market.
Innovative design can enable independence to be retained with dignity so occupants can safely access all areas of their home. A flexible and accessible layout can also take into account the increase in popularity of multi-generational homes.
The number of adult children living with parents and grandparents continues to rise. Many self-builders are adapting their designs specifically to accommodate this growing trend and the result is homes with adaptable living spaces that meet the needs of all generations who live there. At a time when many families are faced with large fees for elderly care, it makes financial sense to invest in mobility products and home adaptations which can delay or even negate the need for external care.
Creating Accessible Properties
There are a number of immediate and unobtrusive improvements you can take into account to increase ease of access into and within the property for those who want to age in place. Consider incorporating level access entry points from the street and wider doorways and hallways to increase suitability for wheelchair users. If stairs start to become difficult to use, it could result in the person affected avoiding movement between floors. And if a bathroom or bedroom were not readily accessible, everyday tasks such as washing and toileting could soon become problematic – with compromises such as sleeping on the sofa and washing in the kitchen sink quickly becoming the norm. Specialist home adaptations, including equipment such as the compact, self-supporting home lifts that are now available, can be quickly installed with minimal building work. As with a successfully upgraded and accessible kitchen, this can be a cost-effective solution to enable extended living in a family home.
Deciding to convert a standard house into a home which is accessible for all is a win for both common sense and for the bank balance – as there is a likelihood of the property’s value increasing over time. Many home occupants have had an opportunity to re-evaluate the way they live during the COVID-19 pandemic. Properties that are flexible and work easily for a wide range of occupants through practical and ergonomic additions, have become desirable for existing homeowners and potential buyers.
Future Proofed Homes
A home that is set-up to meet the changing needs of its occupants will negate further costly renovation projects and delay a forced move, whilst widening its potential sale appeal. In future-proofing your property to provide accessible and independent living, you also can ensure your home continues to be a secure and successful asset.
Architect and later-life design specialist Emma Luddington of multi-award-winning Living Well at Home Ltd says:
“It is never too early to start future-proofing your home. It is one of the best investments you can make for yourself and your family and will pay dividends inconvenience, independence and peace of mind. Not to mention the cost savings of being able to stay in the home that you love for longer, rather than be forced into a care home earlier than necessary.
There is no need for unsightly adaptations, the principle is that future-proofing should seamlessly blend with your home décor and style, at a budget to suit you. And, with so many attractive products and solutions – like the Home Lift range by Stiltz – it’s possible to make your home age-friendly and give you peace of mind for the future.
Unfortunately, many households do not make these changes in good time, leading to unexpected life-changing loss of independence, expensive care costs and even having to leave the much-loved family home for a residential care setting. With residential care costs increasing by 4.7% last year, and weekly fees well over £500 in all parts of the UK, investing a few hundred or even a few thousand pounds in your age-friendly home has to be money well spent.”