Health & wellbeing
A healthy home is a happy home. Find out how where you live can have an impact on your physical and mental health.
Where we live is so important to us. Some of us live in a house, others a flat; many older people in Leeds live in a care home or a supported living complex. Wherever we call home, it’s our space, no matter the size, shape or condition. And where we live has a huge impact on our health. If our home is warm and dry, it can keep us healthier. If you live in a cold house, you’re more likely to get ill with respiratory problems. Where you live has a huge effect on your mental health too. Many older people live alone, and some are lonely and isolated, particularly over this last year or so of Covid restrictions.
Leeds City Council is particularly aware of the health benefits of older people living in good housing. They help fund a great service run by Care & Repair called Home Plus (Leeds). Home Plus (Leeds) aims to help older people live independently and stay in their homes. They also try to prevent older people falling in their homes and support them to keep warm.
I say we are all looking after each other. That way, you are not sat in your house and all isolated
Mary (which is not her real name) has had support from Home Plus Leeds. Mary is 92 and lives on her own in a house. She’s also had mobility issues for a while – she struggles to get around, even in the house. And she lives with dementia. Mary’s son contacted Home Plus (Leeds) and they had a chat with him. One of the first things they advised was that Mary get Meals on Wheels delivered. But they also suggested that certainadaptions in her home might make getting around easier. Home Plus (Leeds) arranged for these adaptations to be installed for free – and Mary could stay in her own home. Another older person they told us about was Andrew. Andrew was really worried about paying for his gas and didn’t know what to do – he’d built up some debt and was spending more on energy because he was shielding. So, Home Plus (Leeds) had a word with the energy company and the problem was alleviated. The energy company even gave him £40 free credit!
These examples show how much your health can be impacted by where you live. Mary was struggling to get around the house, finding it hard to get upstairs. Andrew’s energy problems were really affecting his mental health. Both issues were dealt with and were fairly straightforward – but had a huge impact on Andrew and Mary’s health.
As we get older, sometimes it’s a good idea to move house. Some older people like the idea of downsizing, others start to think it might be a good idea to have some support on hand. For others it’s a different and more complicated story, as it was for George and Dot. Their health and housing story was sent to us by the Centre for Better Ageing. George, who is in his mid 70s, moved to a 2-bedroom bungalow with his wife Dot a few years ago. Their home is part of a sheltered housing complex, which includes gardens, shared green outside spaces and a shared community centre. Both George and Dot have health conditions that affect their day-today life. “We both have a few different health issues,” says George. “I get breathless with COPD. And I’m up at night a lot with prostate problems. Dot has rheumatoid arthritis which, causes her a lot of pain and immobility, as well as some other conditions.”
George used to run his own businesses within the pet food trade. Dot worked at Littlewoods until ill-health made it too difficult. George and Dot ran into financial difficulties, so they sold their 4-bedroomed house and bought a bungalow. Sadly, continuing financial challenges made it difficult to manage the mortgage repayments, so the bungalow was sold, and they became homeless for a short while. At that point, they became tenants of the council, which provided them with a two-bed flat. However, as George says, “the
steps up to the first-floor front door were getting difficult for Dot to manage”. So, the Council rehoused them. George and Dot are very grateful for this support. “The council have really looked after us, and we are here and they are still looking after us,” says George.
Around their home, George enjoys making home improvements, looking after the garden and doing wood-turning in his shed. Both Dot and George really enjoy looking after their dog Fudge and walking him in the nearby orchard. They are grateful they are allowed to keep a pet. “Fudge is one of the good things,” says George. “Being able to have a pet is fantastic.” The couple are very happy with where they live now. “Everything is perfect,” says George. “A great looking bungalow. Here it is fantastic. Everybody loves it here. The bungalows are not too small. You have plenty of room and you can live independently.”
Dot and George enjoy the community dimension to living where they do. There is shared outdoor space that before Covid was used for a summer fundraising event; shared laundry facilities; and going to the community centre can help residents to feel less isolated. “I think the centre is fantastic,” says George. “When I go over there, I say we are all looking after each other. That way, you are not sat in your house and all isolated. People will notice if someone is missing and phone up to see that they are alright.” George helps out at the centre too: “Most days I spend some time at the centre, cooking meals for the elderly residents”. This was before Covid, of course!
All these stories show how where you love can affect your health – and vice versa. Sometimes a health condition (like Dot’s) mean that certain accommodation just isn’t going to work. The key thing is to start thinking about your health and housing. Try our quiz over the page and hopefully that will get you thinking.
We know that there’s a link between good housing and health. Take five minutes to do this quick quiz to help you think about your housing in later life, and consider some of your options.
1. Which best describes your housing situation:
A. My home suits me very well
B. My home is okay, but I have wondered about making changes or maybe moving
C. Sometimes my home feels too difficult to manage
2. How would you describe the condition of your home:
A. Is in a pretty good state of repair
B. Could do with some improvement work doing to it
C. Needs major repairs
3. What is your experience of moving around your home e.g steps and stairs, using the bathroom etc.
A. No problem – never think about it
B. Starting to be a bit awkward
C. Needs major repairs
4. How do you manage with the general household tasks, e.g. cleaning, cooking etc. :
A. No problem
B. Not as easy as they used to be – just can’t do some things like vacuuming or cleaning windows
C. A real struggle
5. How would you describe heating your home:
A. It’s lovely and warm and easy to heat
B. Quite difficult and/or expensive to keep warm
C. Really cold, I can’t afford to heat it adequately
6. How would you describe the location of your home?
A. Very convenient
B. Okay, as long as I can use the car and/ or the buses are running
C. Not good, it’s difficult to get to shops, the GP or anywhere else very easily
7. Which best describes how safe you feel in your home?
A. Really safe and secure.
B. A bit worried sometimes
C. I often feel frightened and vulnerable
8. How would you describe your neighbours?
A. Great – we help each other out
B. Bit of a mixed lot, but okay
C. Not at all friendly – can even be unpleasant
9. How would you describe you living situation:
A. I am happy living alone / or happy living with my partner or family
B. It is sometimes okay but I wish there was more to do locally
C. I often feel lonely and isolated living here
10. If you had practical help to move house would you:
A. Stay where I am, I have everything I need here
B. Think about it, the thought of sorting everything feels too much
C. Needs major repairs
Add up the number of A, B and C answers
Sounds like your current home suits you well.
It may be worth thinking about getting a bit of help and doing a few things to your home to make it more manageable. To keep your options open you could also look around at the other housing choices you may have. See below for options.
It seems that your current home situation is not exactly ideal. Perhaps it is time to contact the local housing options adviser to sort out more pressing difficulties and to find out who can help you to live in your current home more comfortably.
They might also be able to help you look at alternative housing possibilities.
Leeds City Council Housing & Health Helpline: 0113 378 5858
Care & Repair Leeds Home Plus service can help with smaller adaptations/repairs /heating improvements,
but also if people need larger adaptations: 0113 240 6009
Engage Leeds is for vulnerable adults (18+) who have a housing related support need: 0113 380 7615
Retirement LIFE Council Housing - for an overview of extra housing support for people over 60 call
0113 378 3696
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