As the ageing population grows, it’s increasingly important to create services that meet the needs of people. Laura Wood was Group Lead for PR and Communications at North Star Housing Group when she joined forces with colleagues from across the sector in England to form Invisible Creations. She tells us how The National Housing Federation’s ‘Creating our Future’ programme (the first stage of the Federation’s futures’ programme) encouraged the collaborative work that led to Invisible Creations, of which she is now Marketing Director:
“In 2018, I took part in an ideas lab that was being run by the National Housing Federation, from there, I applied for a place on the NHF’s ‘Creating Our Future’ programme and I was invited to a three-day future hack with 25 other people from across the sector. We were given problems, and had those three days then to come up with a solution. That formed the beginning of what would become quite the journey!
“I was selected to join a team of five other people from housing associations across the UK and we were all seconded from our regular jobs to take part in a Greenhouse for 16 weeks in order to pursue our solution to help people adapt with age in their homes.
“We looked at the key problem faced by people as they age, and worked with academics, experts in the ageing sector and community groups to identify what really mattered. We found out very quickly that installing minor adaptations into people’s homes can make the biggest difference for maintaining independence in your home for longer. But the issue was people weren’t getting them installed early enough. Delays in the system and the design being the two biggest issues.
“We discovered that people were refusing to get adaptations because of their clinical appearance, they would rather make dangerous decisions that could damage their health than get the current products installed. My grandmother was a perfect example of someone who was finding it more difficult to get around, but wanted her home to look like a home, not a hospital so she refused to get the adaptations she so desperately needed. She became quite the poster girl for our campaign!
“A year later, we are now turning that idea into a reality, and after positive feedback from across the sector, we hope to be able to have Invisible Creations in homes from early 2020.
“It is such a rare privilege to be a part of a journey from the beginning and right through to delivery.
“For the social housing sector, an ageing population presents a crisis for our businesses. We not only need to increase the supply of homes to meet demand, it is also crucial that we are able to meet the needs of current and future tenants. Invisible Creations isn’t just about creating products, it’s about future-proofing our homes and supporting our tenants to live independently and well for longer. It’s about adopting a more strategic, proactive and preventative approach to the delivery of home adaptations, and I’m looking forward to sharing more on this at the conference.”
Housing Futures is the second phase of the Federation’s futures programme, and for the first time will be run in partnership with Community Housing Cymru and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. Find out how you can get involved in the Welsh Housing Futures programme here.