The issue of housing and the wider environment for an ageing population is one where there are many unanswered questions. In this paper a number of key issues are discussed and for each of these the focus is on three aspects. These are the current situation, its reasonableness and what research is needed in order to make decisions about policy and practice.
The first three issues relate to the profile of older people themselves and the importance of home to them. The changing profile of older people is not just about an ageing population but also about the growing prominence of those with dementia, women, people from black and ethnic minority groups and one person households, yet little is known about the type of housing which should be provided. Of equal concern is the widening gap between those with a high standard of living (including housing) and those with a low standard of living. The importance of home to older people means that research must focus on how people can be enabled to remain there, and also on the costs, financial and otherwise, to carers and to society.
The next three issues relate to the type of housing older people live in and moves in later life. The startling change in the tenure pattern with a growth of owner occupation brings problems as does the decline in social housing. The advantages and disadvantages of the different types of housing, mainstream and specialized—for older people are relatively well known. However the balance between the two needs more research as does that on retirement communities. While it is well known that there are peaks of migration in old age and that moves are often made in haste, little is known about the process of decision making.
The final two topics concern links between housing and other aspects of older people's lives. On health more research is needed on temperature, mortality and morbidity, homelessness and accidents and especially on links between services.
These topics have implications for planning and design. The emphasis should be on a multidisciplinary approach using a variety of quantitative and qualitative techniques with an emphasis on dissemination.