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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

95% of new supported housing is completed with outdated tech


In our latest guest blog, Appello chief executive Tim Barclay draws on a recent survey with CIH's member opinion panel to make the case that there is not enough focus on providing housing fit for older people today.

I think we’d all like to believe that we’ve moved away from just providing housing that’s ‘fit’ for older people and are now providing housing that really assists their quality of life. After all, there’s a wide appreciation that the right housing for older people pays significant dividends to them and to wider society. That’s because people who remain independent longer are healthier and happier, remain outside of formal care for longer, feel more connected to their community and are less likely to suffer from social isolation.

Alongside practical design elements such as accessibility, technology is playing an increasingly important role in the success of housing for older people. Digital telecare technology is revolutionising support for older people in their home, giving them access to smart health and wellbeing services that they have in the past been excluded from, such as modern, reliable and fast environmental safety alerts from fire, smoke and flood detectors, or improved communications between residents and on-site staff through video and online services.

But digital telecare should not just be a nice to have. The phased digital switchover of the current, and long-serving, analogue telephone network (PSTN) and integrated services digital network (ISDN) network to the digital (IP) network by 2025 is already creating a miss-match of analogue signalling across the increasingly digital national telephony network – causing a 7.5 per cent first-time call failure rate on analogue telecare devices in many regions.

Yet astonishingly, 95 per cent of the new supported housing developments built last year were completed with analogue telecare technology.

We recently conducted a survey with the CIH member opinion panel to understand what they thought about industry provision of housing fit for older people, and what is really behind the use of outdated telecare technology in new supported housing developments.

The results of the survey provided some stark messages from those at the frontline of housing for older people. Just under half of those surveyed thought the housing industry was overlooking its duty of care to older residents by not installing the latest technology into supported housing. There was an argument that this is driven by differing industry-wide priorities, with 9 in 10 stating that they didn’t think that the housing industry puts enough focus on providing housing fit for older people today. And, 83 per cent thought that their organisation could be doing more to install future proof technology to support residents.

Telecare is important to resident well-being and development success

It was clear that those CIH members surveyed understood the importance of telecare and assistive technologies to the well-being of residents in supported housing. In fact, 90 per cent felt that it’s either important or very important. While 86 per cent stated that telecare and assistive technology is either important or very important to the success of supported living developments.

What’s behind the continued use of outdated telecare in new supported housing?

Asked why digital telecare is not included at the planning stage of supported housing build properties, over half (55 per cent) acknowledged that there was a lack of awareness or knowledge of digital telecare technology, while only 17 per cent thought that it wasn’t a priority for architects and commissioners. Others noted that there was a fear of transition, while a lack of innovation in the housing industry and differing priorities were also stated as reasons why analogue telecare is still being specified.

Is it time to introduce standards to ensure the safety of residents?

Interestingly 63 per cent thought that there should be a minimum standard of assistive technology in place within housing for older people, with just over half (57 per cent) stating that regulatory bodies should do more to ensure that the telecare technology available should meet minimum standards for longevity and robustness.

There was also an acknowledgment that without standards in place at this time, the industry (housing providers architects, builders, M&E suppliers, commissioners and local authorities) has a responsibility for making sure the right telecare technology is installed in supported housing.

More collaboration across the industry is needed

There is a clear mismatch between the value the industry puts on the very positive difference that digital assistive and telecare technologies can make, while persisting with the continued use of legacy telecare technology in new supported housing stock. As the implementation of a digital switchover continues and the failure rate of analogue technology rises, we are getting increasingly worried that the right advice and guidance is not being relayed to those planning new supported housing.

As an industry we have a responsibility to work together more collaboratively to ensure housing built today is ready to support an enhanced living experience and not outdated before the ribbon is cut.

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