With an ever-ageing population, there is more demand than ever on housing associations to maintain and update its housing stock for elderly residents – but one planning expert is warning providers to plan ahead so that residents’ needs aren’t forgotten in the redevelopment process.

He says: “As a nation, we are getting older and this means that existing care homes and bed-sit developments must be regularly updated without disruption to the homes and comfort of residents.”

Philip says he’s witnessed first-hand situations where housing associations have failed to properly look after the needs of residents and with the ongoing furore around care homes, it’s something that registered providers must be conscious of.

He continued: “Even for healthy, settled individuals, moving home is one of the most stressful experiences they endure. With advancing years we are generally less able to deal with change; if either a temporary or permanent relocation is required to facilitate improvements, this can become a major trauma for the individual with potentially detrimental effects on the health of the residents.”

Philip also says that housing associations need to manage their supply chain as the impact on residents may not just come from them, continuing: “Whilst registered providers and similar agencies have fantastic, highly trained staff dedicated to the sole aim of managing a move, making it as stress free and comfortable as possible for the residents, the skill evidenced by these sensitive and caring people is in my experience often not replicated or even understood by the team of construction professionals who make up the project team.

“Architects, quantity surveyors, interior designers may regard the person or organisation paying their invoices as their only concern. With the best of motivations, they will try to understand the clients brief and interpret it in a creative way, perhaps with aspirations for an award or two. Close management is needed to ensure that everyone involved remembers it’s the residents, some of whom may have lived there for many years, who are the priority”

Philip has spent more than 30 years advising clients in this sector and says the formula for getting engagement right is simple: “A dedicated project team member must spend time with the residents as a group and as individuals so that she or he can brief the team and client as to the outcome of the research.

“This individual or individuals must be trained in how to deal potentially anxious older people, providers may find themselves dealing with a highly lucid person who has used her retirement to become a world expert on assisted living design. In any case, dress appropriately, ditch the bow tie have a cup of tea and listen, listen, listen!”

Philip also says that providers must be conscious of the way in which designs and proposals are presented bearing in mind the different needs and abilities of their audiences, adding: “Few people can read 2D plans and convert them into a picture in their minds. 3D, interactive models should be utilised wherever possible. Providers should use big and bold text to assist understanding plus lots of photographs.”

He concluded: “The more providers engage with the stakeholders at the start of any development the better, however, when vulnerable groups are involved it is even more important that the process is focused on making them feel at ease.”

57-year-old Philip Millson is the founder and managing director of Millson Associates whose clients include Gedling Homes and New Charter Housing Group.