Welcoming the new Older People’s Housing Taskforce to Grace House

I was recently proud to host both the Housing Minister and Care Minister for a VIP visit and tour of Grace House, C&C’s flagship new housing scheme for over-55s in London. The visit was to launch the new government ‘Older People’s Housing Taskforce’ which both of their departments are spearheading.

The new Taskforce brings together a team of experts from different relevant fields to find ways to give older people greater choice about how and where they live in later life.

So, what have we done at Grace House, and what else are we doing to make sure that customers have housing that meet their individual needs?

We’re building homes, like Grace house, that have been codesigned with our customers, and listening to the people who will live in and use the space. We’re regenerating buildings that are no longer fit for purpose and turning them into safe, and secure spaces for customers to thrive in, and we’re using technology within homes, like our Connected Living service, to support our customers and adapt as their needs change over time.

Grace House – the blueprint for modern over-55 living

Grace House is built on the site of former older living scheme Dora House, operated by Central and Cecil (C&C), who joined Aster Group in 2022. Dora House was built in the mid-1960s, offering predominantly small studio apartments for customers in later life.

In my eyes, the new Grace House, which stands on the same site opposite Lord’s cricket ground in London, sets a high bar for quality affordable accommodation for our ageing population. It’s a sustainable building that can generate its own energy and connect to other green energy sources in the future.

I was pleased to show them around the building, which has 170 stylish new apartments and this high-specification new development provides lots of features to make living here a pleasant, comfortable and safe experience as customers head towards and live in retirement.  

Co-design in living spaces

Customer consultation is at the heart of all projects at Aster, whether that’s reviewing policies, or designing new buildings like Grace House. At the centre of the scheme’s co-design were customers themselves. Many customers were part of the ‘Dora Designers Group’ – involved in every aspect of designing the new building including kitchens, bathrooms, and garden areas – even the types of paving and planting in the communal areas.

From the very initial design phases, through to the final touches in communal areas, my team worked with accessibility design experts and architects to shape what we see at Grace House today. This has included considering the needs of people with both physical, cognitive and sensory impairments, like dementia. In the kitchens, for example, we’ve fitted easy to see and use drawer and cupboard handles, comfort height ovens and space under the sink to enable seated access.

As bathrooms are the first room in the home where people may start to struggle and need specific support, we included level access wet rooms with a seat, light bi-fold doors and flush plates that are easier to operate for anyone with limited movement.

There is also a dedicated floor that can, if needed in the future, be turned into a 10-bedroom care home facility, to provide a more intense level of care for people. It’s all about giving people the choice to remain in their community.

Technology to promote independent living

It’s also possible to give people the confidence to remain independent for longer through our technology enabled care service – Connected Living. Connected Living helps people with a range of support needs, whether that’s through wearing GPS watches, devices where 24/7 help can be raised at the press of a button or the support the team can offer to measure and prevent the risk of someone having a fall.

I’m committed to Aster’s vision that ‘Everyone has a home’ vision, and as part of that am looking forward to introducing a specific ageing well, living life strategy that enables and empowers customers to thrive in their homes as they reach and live in retirement.

Older People’s Housing Taskforce

The Taskforce, which I had the pleasure of showing around Grace House, is a collective of some great minds and includes directors from charities like Age UK and the chair of the Home Builders Federation, to local government leaders, CEOs of housing associations and professors on health and long-term care.  

The Taskforce has a tough job on its hands to find ways for the government to offer a range of housing options for older people, to look at how the housing market works for older people now and in the future, and gives them greater choice in where they choose to live.  

I met some really interesting people at the event, and I hope to help inform the Taskforce’s thinking as it moves into action. I look forward to hearing how it gets on and am pleased by the positive impressions Grace House left them with.

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