Age-inclusive design principles

We’ve just reached the end of a two-year government funded research project with The Royal College of Art and other industry partners to radically rethink the UK's approach to Later Living, combining expertise in housing, wellness and technology to help the industry adapt to the changing needs of a population that is living longer.
Age-inclusive design principles

The challenge


In the UK, those aged 65 years and older will account for 24% of the population by 2043 (United Nations, 2015) and occupy more of our towns and cities. A separate English Housing Survey from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in 2020-21 found that 1.1M older people lived in homes that did not meet the Decent Homes Standard.


The majority of older people occupy homes with an energy performance rating of D or lower and are more likely to experience issues relating to damp and cold internal conditions. This snapshot of the consequences associated with ill-suited housing provision for older people presents a significant health risk for an ageing population which has serious cost implications for the National Health Service and UK tax payer.

In many other developed economies, e.g. Australia & USA, 1 in 20 retired people live in a home that has been specially designed to support an older person through the rest of their life. In the UK this applies to only 1 in 200 retired people (LGA, 2017). 3.8M people in the UK over 65 are interested in downsizing, with an estimated housing stock value of £1.2trn (Legal & General 2018).

The big issue 

The recent Mayhew review (2022) shows that the UK should build a minimum of 50,000 homes for later living per year. Typically, the UK has been delivering approx. 7,000 homes per year resulting in an ever increasing shortfall.

Figures from Knight Frank identified a subsequent housing deficit within the middle-market, owing to planning challenges and limitations on the % allocation of older persons housing. Resolving these issues will be key to addressing the shortfall. Further research from The Extra Care Charitable Trust insists homes must be ‘bespoke’ for later living to improve wellbeing and quality of life.

Despite these figures, the Later Living market is forecast to grow significantly over the next 25yrs, attracting investment of up to £5.7bn a year until 2040 (HAPPI 5, 2019) and increase by 40% (£16bn) in 5yrs to £55.2bn (Knight Frank 2019).

Introduction to the Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Research aims

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership, backed by Innovate UK, was established by Cartwright Pickard and The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design to develop principles that support a new age-inclusive later living typology for the middle market. 

They are designed to inform a new standard of housing for Later Living that is supportive of the widest possible range of older people. The research team used a mix of literature, ethnographic and field studies to explore leading housing models around the world and interview 100s of residents to identify common themes. 

The research radically rethinks and seeks to transform the UK construction industry’s approach to Later Living, combining expertise in housing, wellness and technology to help the UK adapt to the changing housing requirements of a population that is living longer. 


The research identified gaps in the UK’s Later Living offering and led to the consolidation of the most effective inclusive design practices common across 57 global exemplars. After careful benchmarking, 13 built projects were visited, with staff, architects and residents interviewed. The subsequent data, and age-inclusive design principles are summarised in the second half of our report Age-inclusive design principles: Shaping a greater sense of belonging in later life which is available on request.


Our principles form guidelines that can be used in practice by developers, planners, architects, and operators to raise Later Living standards across the UK and older persons. It's already in use by and helping shape the work of the new Older People’s Housing Taskforce.