A healthy home maintains the well-being of people who live in it. It’s warm, dry and comfortable, has good lighting and is free from hazards that might cause tripping and falls, for example. Homes that are not healthy may be cold and dark, have damp or mould, and can be detrimental to health. You can read more about the importance of healthy homes on the World Health Organisation website.
What unhealthy homes can cause
Research and statistics indicate that cold homes can:
- Increase the risk of poor mental health, hypothermia, rheumatoid, respiratory and cardio-vascular diseases.
- Permit damp and mould to flourish. These are health hazards. They can also reduce dexterity and so increase the chances of accidents happening.
- In babies, they can impact infants' weight gain and development, mean higher hospital admission rates, and cause asthmatic symptoms.
Excess winter deaths
Every year, about 30,000 more people over 45 die between December and March in England and Wales than at other times of the year. The groups that are disproportionally affected include very young children and those over 85, people with long-term illness (who spend long periods housebound) and people with a disability. Here is a more detailed analysis of excess winter deaths.
Simple things like not having a handrail on the stairs or poor lighting greatly increase the risk of accidents. People over 75 suffer the majority of their injuries at home due to falls. These structural defects can have disastrous consequences.
How your local authority can help
They work with organisations such as district council housing services and others to improve housing conditions - things like investment in home improvements for insulation and heating.
That covers minor structural improvements that might include better lighting, installing grab rails, correcting hazards that might trip people up, adaptations and so on. All designed to help older people to remain at home and independent for longer.
There are some excellent factsheets and advice on the Independent Age website, including how to obtain assessments from your local council.
Your local GP surgery or day care centre are always good places to start for pointing you in the right direction and getting contact phone numbers.