10 years on: Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation ‘HAPPI report’

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Today (10 February 2020) mark’s the 10th anniversary of the publication in the UK of the first groundbreaking report of the ‘Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation’ – known since that time as the ‘HAPPI Report’.

The work of the Panel was jointly commissioned by the UK Department Communities and Local Government (DGLG) and the Department of Health, and project managed by the then Homes and Communities Agency (now Homes England). It was prompted by the 1997 ‘Age-Friendly Cities’ report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which called for a transformation in the way in which we view retirement and older age, in particular the equation of ‘older age’ to ‘inactivity’, and to break the cycle of non-universal access.

The original report, ‘HAPPI 1′, was followed by 4 further reports up to 2019. The first HAPPI report focused on design: it identified 10 key design criteria that have particular relevance to the spectrum of older persons’ housing, which needs to offer an attractive alternative to the family home and be able to adapt over time to meet changing needs. These ‘HAPPI Principles’, as they have become known, focus on the need for:-

  • Space and flexibility
  • Daylight in the home and in shared spaces
  • Balconies and outdoor space
  • Adaptability and ‘care ready’ design
  • Positive use of circulation space
  • Shared facilities and ‘hubs’
  • Plants, trees, and the natural environment
  • Energy efficiency and sustainable design
  • Storage for belongings and bicycles
  • External shared surfaces and ‘home zones’

Supporting visual materials to the first HAPPI report are available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/HCAuk/search?query=HAPPI .

It is fair to say that the HAPPI reports have transformed the approach to design of older housing and living in the UK, which pre-HAPPI was significantly inferior to that found across many countries in the EU. Their clear and beautifully-illustrated analysis and recommendations, supplemented by excellent case studies from across the EU, made them easily digestable and adoptable by all stakeholders within the housing world. It provided incontrovertible evidence of the social and financial arguments for age-friendly housing, including improved health and wellbeing, accident prevention, extended independent living, removal of primary care pressures and addressing housing stock under-occupation. 

The later HAPPI reports used inquiries, expert panels and testimonies to build on all aspects of older living, and to make recommendations for both policy and operational change at specific sections of the housing market, including rental housing, rural areas and older age options for housing.

All 5 reports have been made readily available on one page by the Housing Learning & Innovation Network (referred to commonly as ‘Housing LIN’) at https://www.housinglin.org.uk/Topics/browse/Design-building/HAPPI/ .

To mark the anniversary Housing LIN is featuring a series of short articles by key individuals involved in the creation of the first HAPPI report, including this personal perspective from Julia Park, Head of Research for Levitt Bernstein Architects – https://www.housinglin.org.uk/blogs/HAPPI-ANNIVERSARY/ .

HAPPI anniversary to one of the finest evidence-based initiatives in recent UK built environment design history!