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HousingLIN HAPPIHour: Living Well

The first HousingLIN Happi Hour of 2022 heard from Thirteen Group, a landlord and housing developer which owns and manages more than 34,000 homes across Teesside, the North East and Yorkshire. 
Chris Smith, Executive Director of Business Growth set the scene. She said that by 2048 one in four people in the UK will be over 65. Multigenerational housing will become more commonplace, whilst the number of private renters will double by 2046.
Thirteen Group work within some areas of high deprivation in Teesside. They house a lot of older people, not just in specialist schemes, and some properties are in challenging areas.
The Government’s 'People at the Heart of Care' white paper has pledged £300m to connect housing, health and care, £210m for development of specialist housing, and £570m for DFGs.
Thirteen Group’s strategic vision included: extending their offering to customers who might need extra support to live independently; enhancing the sense of community; being a leader in helping people to age better; and working with partners, local authorities, Homes England and other sectors to ensure they maximise funding and opportunities.
Michelle Dawson then spoke. When she joined Thirteen Group she took a step back from their strategic vision and came up with some 'Imagine if...' statements about what they were trying to do. An example of this is: 'Imagine if Thirteen Group designs houses, gardens, and community spaces that promote good health and wellbeing'?
Thirteen Group spoke to practitioners who delivered their ideas, to see how they actually worked. They carried out three sets of research, which confirmed some things they knew and gave them other areas to think about. The research resulted in an exhibition at Thirteen Group’s Head Office. They looked at personas, and which things to prioritise going forward if you were thinking about yourself or your parents and grandparents. It is not about age, we should be designing things around mobility to live well.
The evidence suggested that Thirteen Group should be looking at more intergenerational and multigenerational housing close to or in town centres; and that location was more important that 'what' type of property it was.
Living Well is Thirteen Group's overarching body of work. Their key work strands are: exploring the opportunities to design intergenerational and multigenerational homes; asking what they could do to prevent falls; asking how they could better support people with dementia; how big the digital divide is; and exploring 'missing voices'.
Work strands also included working more closely with health and social care; exploring the possibility of using a handyman service; improving data; and growing the opportunity for engagement in meaningful activities.
Michelle Dawson then outlined the idea of Service Design, which looks at the problem from the customer's perspective. Everyone's voice is heard, so there is shared decision-making. Service Design provides a road map which has intent and moves forward, and it requires engagement from people with lived experience.
Thirteen Group has an innovative way of getting people to engage with projects by turning them into 'horses' and discussing which has the best chance of winning.
As regards technology, they believe that it is only useful if it is understood, wanted and engaged with. Sometimes we make assumptions about people’s capacity and willingness to use technology, but it won't suit everyone.
The methodology by which decisions are made considers feasibility, desirability and viability.
In response to a question regarding engaging with health and social care colleagues, Michelle Dawson said she used her contacts from her previous work in the sector and an online forum called 'Mural', and that there should be an understanding that different people will bring different knowledge.
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