Laura Wood, Co-Founder, Invisible Creations®
“Something that should be easy, but I think we’re all learning it’s not. It comes with its challenges in ways we wouldn’t necessarily have predicted.
“There are the things that we probably expected to find difficult, like not being able to spend valuable time with our loved ones, missing Friday nights at the pub, the lack of freedom to travel, but for me, and no doubt many others, I’ve also been thinking about the challenges presented by our homes themselves. Now we are faced with spending so much time in them, are they really that practical?
“The reality is that most of our homes are not designed to support some of our basic needs, now and in the future.
“It’s highlighted just how flexible we need our homes to be to allow us to live well.
“As we try to navigate and balance living, working, exercising, and educating from our homes, it’s forcing us to interact with our home environments in ways we potentially never have before.
“My Twitter and Instagram feeds have been flooded with images of makeshift workspaces – bedrooms, garages and kitchens doubling as home offices. Including photos of laptops strategically placed atop piles of books, and people fortunate enough to have gardens making the most of working in the sun – images of our temporary reality which have made me smile in the midst of the current crisis.
“We’re all trying, in whatever way we can, to adapt our homes to suit our current needs. In varying degrees of success. But for most of us, our homes are not designed to support us to work from them. Yet here we are, quickly and effectively finding solutions to make working from home more accessible.
“This really struck a chord with me, because even though some of us are experiencing adapting our homes and behaviour for the first time, there are millions of people who have been doing this day in, day out for years. People who have been made disabled by their homes – that struggle to get from one room to the other because inclusive design has never been at the heart of home design.
“We might be thinking about the practicality and flexibility of our homes for the first time, but this is the permanent reality for people with limited mobility living in unsuitable homes.
“Research by the Centre for Ageing Better reveals that of the 23.2 million households in England today, 4.3 million (19%) people are living in homes that don’t meet basic standards of decency.
“And almost one in three workers in the UK are over 50, with figures showing there will be one million more people aged 50 and over in the workplace by 2025.
“As we spend all of this quality time interacting with our homes, it has never been more evident that we need to strengthen our efforts to create age-friendly, inclusive homes. Homes that allow us to live well, that enable flexibility, encourage movement and that also accommodate the progressively growing global home-based workforce.
“Just over a decade ago the UK government published the first housing our ageing population panel for innovation (HAPPI) report, which set out design principles for the ageing population and highlighted examples of best practice from across Europe.
“At Invisible Creations® we spend a lot of time talking about age-friendly homes and we have seen first-hand the dangers of living in homes that aren’t designed to support our needs. We are really passionate about creating inclusively designed solutions that support people to move around their homes freely and comfortably.
“Of the ‘care-ready’ design principles outlined in the HAPPI report, the one that resonates with us the most is the need to create ‘spaces that encourage interaction and avoid an ‘institutional feel’.
“At Invisible Creations®, we believe a home should be a haven, not a hospital and this is reflected in our approach to product design. And we want to encourage as many people as possible working in the housing industry, and beyond, to adopt a more inclusive and person-centred approach to design.
“A decent home is fundamental to living well at all ages and stages of life, yet many people live in homes that put their health and wellbeing at risk.
“With space and time to reflect on our renewed relationship with our homes, now feels like the best time to start readdressing and repurposing the principles of this report to meet the evolving needs of people of all ages living and working in their homes.
“As coronavirus was taking hold of the nation, it was really encouraging to see the blog from the Housing LIN’s Jeremy Porteus, HAPPI working from home?, which recalibrated the ten HAPPI design principles to incorporate ‘work ready’ adjustments.
“It’s important we think about adapting our homes to not only aid our mobility but to also ‘accommodate a growing number of people in later life who want or will be working from home or may require live-in care and support, now or in the future, to meet their changing lifestyles.’
“Developers, architects, landlords, and designers need to put practical and flexible solutions into home design to allow people of any age and ability to live and work from homes that are practical, preventative, and pleasing.
“Our homes are so much more than just a roof over our heads. An accessible, safe home brings peace of mind, contentment, and social connection.
“A home with inclusive design principles at its core provides an environment which allows us to live well and work flexibly for longer.
“As we spend this time experiencing the true impact home design has on our lives, once the spotlight on the current crisis diminishes, will the opportunity for us to re-evaluate standards and design principles of housing remain post-pandemic? We hope so.”
This blog was written for Housing LIN and is part of a new series stimulated by the Housing LIN’s Jeremy Porteus’ thoughts on preparing for ‘work ready’ housing and adapting the HAPPI design principle for work readiness (referenced in this article).
If you found Laura’s blog of interest, read her earlier blog on the power of good design.