Link Between Unsuitable Homes And Poor Health In Disabled People

A new study has found a link between poor health in disabled people, and a lack of home adaptations. The University of Manchester reports on the findings of research carried out by teams at the Universities of Manchester and Hong Kong.

The researchers found that those with mobility problems and elderly people who lived in homes without suitable adaptations, report higher levels of pain, poorer health outcomes, and higher levels of social isolation than other adults.

The study compared the data from those in housing without adaptations, with that from adults over 60 who did not have mobility issues, and those more elderly or less mobile people who lived in homes that had been accommodated to help with the tasks of day-to-day living.

Examples of adaptations in the study include bathroom modifications, such as a disabled wet room, kitchen modifications, access ramps, automatic doors, and widened doorways. The comprehensive research tracked data from 10,000 over 60s in England, for a period of 11 years.

Those less mobile participants who lived in suitably adjusted homes were found to be at less risk of falls, pain, and poor health overall. They were also able to leave the house more often to socialise, and were able to remain in their own homes for longer.

Lead author Honorary Professor Tarani Chandola from The University of Manchester said: “We now have strong and consistent evidence that housing adaptations can prevent a deterioration in the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of disabled older adults.”

“Mobility impairment is the most prevalent form of disability facing older adults today and includes difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, and getting up after sitting.”

Prof Chandola added: “But most of the housing stock in the UK is poorly designed for a rapidly ageing population, with only 7% of homes in England in 2014 meeting the minimum standard of accessibility. Over 70% of older adults with a mobility impairment in England live in a home without an accommodation for their disability.”

The work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and the report is published in Lancet Regional Health Europe. Surprisingly, it is an area that has remained little studied so far, despite the growing elderly population in the UK.

Past studies have failed to separate the impact of housing modifications from other forms of support, such as physiotherapy, and exercise regimens. Some disabled people have to wait for months for an occupational therapist to make an assessment of their homes, and months more for the adaptations to be carried out.

This can result in disabled people being unable to perform basic everyday tasks, such as showering or cooking, by themselves. Manchester World reports that only 9% of homes have accessibility features, yet there are over 14 million disabled people in the UK.

The crisis has worsened since the Covid pandemic, with waiting lists for initial assessments of up to 156 working days in some places, compared with an average of 66 days before the pandemic.


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