Australia is growing older and our needs are changing but our homes and the law are not keeping pace, a leading researcher into housing accessibility and safety has warned.

Associate Professor Catherine Bridge, Director of the Home Modifications Information Clearinghouse (HMInfo), says housing design plays a crucial role in helping elderly, frail and disabled people to participate fully in society. And yet, as Australia's population ages, laws are not in place to ensure the nation's housing stock will meet the needs of an older society, setting the scene for a blowout in health costs and marginalisation of our most vulnerable citizens.

HMInfo, based in the Faculty of the Built Environment, is the only research group in Australia investigating how the built environment impacts on older people, people with disabilities and their carers. Part of HMInfo's approach is to look at buildings as prosthetic devices: appropriate, accessible housing, says Bridge, is as important as hip replacements or false teeth when it comes to maintaining a person's wellbeing and contact with society.

"We are heading into the biggest demographic change in Australian history," Bridge says.

"We have a window of opportunity to do something about making the investments and creating the cultural change needed to reduce its impact".

Slips, trips and falls in buildings place a $250 million burden on the health system each year - an amount that will only increase if the right steps aren't taken, says Bridge.

The full version of this article appears in the May/June 2009 issue of Uniken.

For an audio interview with Associate Professor Catherine Bridge, download the podcast here (see Item 8: Safe as Houses?)

Media Contact: Peter Trute | 02 9385 1933 |