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Minister English announces €100k prize money for innovation in the design of housing solutions for older people

Published on Thursday, 22 Sep 2016
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Minister English announcing €100k prize money for innovation in the design of housing solutions for older people

Mr. Damien English, T.D., Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, announced at the 85th National Ploughing Championships on Tuesday, 20 September 2016, that he is to provide €100,000 in prize money to support a Smart Ageing design challenge to demonstrate innovation in the design and delivery of housing solutions for older people.

The recently published policy statement Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness sets out a practical and readily implementable set of actions that aim to increase annual housing supply to 25,000 units per annum by 2020, thereby creating a functioning and sustainable housing system.  As the number one priority for Government, the Action Plan is underpinned by some €5.35 billion in funding over its lifetime and will support the delivery of 47,000 units of social housing by the end of 2021.

In addition to the more high profile actions aimed at the accelerated delivery of quality housing and supporting a more responsive housing market, Pillar 2 of Rebuilding Ireland contains specific commitments to meet the housing needs of the vulnerable, which includes older people.

“Adaptable and smart homes will be the future in the developed world with advantages from saving energy to creating homes suitable for a lifetime.  An opportunity now exists to develop the know-how and commercialise the knowledge of smart ageing adaptation to support assisted living for older people in their homes” said Minister English speaking at the ploughing championships.

In this context, Action 2.19 of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness sets out a commitment to support a design challenge, focusing on three distinct areas: -

•           smart technologies in housing for older people;
•           adaptation of existing houses to meet the needs of older people; and
•           life-time communities.

To develop and oversee the roll-out of the design challenge, a Steering Group is being established comprising representatives from: -

•           the Department;
•           the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design;
•           the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland; and
•           the Construction Industry Federation.

It is intended that the Steering Group will hold its first meeting in early October to elaborate on the competition brief which will aim to stimulate, and support collaboration among, the design, construction and technology sectors to be innovative in providing solutions for older people within our build environment.  In this regard, the challenge will be inclusive of anyone with an idea which is feasible, cost effective and has potential for mainstreaming into the future.  It is intended that the competition will be open to applicants early in the new year.

“The Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under Rebuilding Ireland we have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do just that” said Minister English adding that the “Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge is a small but key element of the Rebuilding Ireland solution.”


Note for Editors:

The ageing of our population represents one of the most significant demographic and societal developments that Ireland faces in the years ahead, with the number of people over the age of 65 expected to reach 1.4 million by 2041.  Across this same period, the number over the age of 80 is set to quadruple, from 128,000 in 2011 to some 480,000.  The implications for public policy in areas such as housing, health and urban and rural planning are considerable.

Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.  In terms of cost effectiveness, home care costs in Ireland are estimated to be consistently lower than hospitalisation.  For many, living in adapted or specialist housing reduces reliance on health and social care services and can result in measurably improved health status and lower rates of hospital admissions, while also contributing to a greater sense of wellbeing.

Smart ageing is a broad concept that has been defined as ‘using technology and innovation in both the public and private sectors to produce products, services, solutions, and systems to improve the quality of life of people ages 50 and over’.  Adaptable and smart homes will be the future in the developed world with advantages from saving energy to creating homes suitable for a lifetime.

Universal Design is well defined as the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.  By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples' needs.

‘Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland’ and ‘Universal Design Guidelines: Dementia Friendly Dwellings for People with Dementia, their Families and Carers’ have recently been published by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD).  These represent first steps in the process of raising awareness and inspiring people to think differently about the benefits of Universally Designed homes and the potential opportunity to address some of the global challenges society faces by future-proofing homes through embracing Universal Design thinking.