France ‘lagging behind’ in age-proofing homes as aid scheme announced

France has unveiled plans for a new aid scheme to help people adapt their homes for old age, and associations say it is long overdue

The MaPrimeAdapt’ grant will be available for installing stairlifts
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Plans to help people adapt their properties for old age have been welcomed by an association that aims to amplify the voices of elderly people who wish to continue living at home.

The MaPrimeAdapt’ grant will be available for renovations including fitting a stairlift or support rails, adding ramps and swapping a bathtub for a walk-in shower.

Starting in 2024, it will replace the numerous existing grants aimed at age-proofing homes, such as those available via the Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah) and the Caisse nationale d’assurance vieillesse (Cnav).

Read more: France to launch new aid to age-proof homes from 2024

Idea to simplify the system

The idea is to simplify the system by replacing these with a single scheme, making it easier for people to undertake renovations.

Catherine Vincent, journalist and committee member at Vieux et Chez soi, an association which holds debates on topics including the “institutionalisation of elderly people often against their wishes”, said: “France is behind on this.

Any measure which encourages people to adapt their homes is positive. “If the apartment is not adapted to a loss of autonomy, there will be an accident.

“Geriatricians say falls must be avoided at all costs, as after a fall the person’s state can deteriorate quickly, and that’s when they are forced to leave their homes.”

Almost 10,000 people over the age of 65 die each year following a fall, according to a report by specialist Luc Broussy submitted to the government in May 2021.

In it the leader of France’s so-called ‘silver economy’ calls for the introduction of a scheme along the lines of MaPrimeRénov’, which funds projects to make homes more energy-efficient.

Demographic time bomb

His report talks of a demographic time bomb, with baby boomers soon set to reach old age.

It claims the number of people aged 85 and over will increase by 88% between 2030 and 2050, putting a strain on publicly-funded residential care homes (Ehpads).

Keeping people at home is also a quality of life question, Ms Vincent said. “The majority of people in Ehpads are very dependant, and often have serious cognitive impairment.

These places are increasingly about care and not about living.”

While surveys show a large majority of older people want to continue living at home, there are often psychological and practical, as well as financial, barriers to adapting homes.

“Older people often think there is no need to make changes, and it is the children who tell them they need to change the bathroom, for example. They don’t anticipate.”

She explained she had lived through the experience with her own parents. “It required a lot of talking to convince them to do the work before it was too late.

They said they would do it once it was necessary. “I said ‘When it’s necessary, that will be a month of work, you will perhaps be ill, and it won’t be a good time’.

“Even if you have financial help, having the work done is complicated when you are old and tired.” A report published in February by public research agency Cerema highlighted the psychological issue among young retirees.

Read more: How to help to stay living at your home in France in older age

‘Difficulty picturing themselves in old age’

A common reason for not anticipating future needs, it concluded, is “difficulty picturing themselves in old age, sometimes linked to a ‘denial’ of ageing and to its unpredictability”.

Ms Vincent believes more should be done when building new properties to ensure difficult renovations are not needed down the line.

“In Germany, for 10 or 20 years, public authorities have been building homes which anticipate the fact that residents are going to get older.”

Mr Broussy shares the assessment that France lags behind its neighbours. When the various permanent funding schemes are combined, France spends €152million a year on adapting housing, compared to €580million in the UK, his report states.

He called for funding to rise to UK levels to adapt 100,000 to 150,000 homes per year, compared to the 40,000 currently financed by the Cnav and Anah state schemes.

France’s 2023 provisional budget, presented in late September, includes €35million for Anah to prepare for the scheme’s 2024 launch.

MPs have 70 days to debate and vote on the budget. It is yet to be announced if the grant will be means-tested but the aid is expected to be granted on a sliding scale according to income levels and to be capped at a maximum of €5,600.

Dedicated website to launch next year

A dedicated website for claimants is expected to be launched next year. While 600,000 people live in Ehpads, with an average age of around 85, they are in the minority.

At the age of 85, 88% of French people still live at home or with their children. At age 90, this figure is 75%. Currently, people wishing to adapt their homes can apply for Anah’s Habiter facile scheme.

The lowest-income applicants can have 50% of the cost of the work paid for, up to €10,000. Those with ‘modest resources’ can get help for 35% of the costs, up to €7,000.

Further help is available via Cnav’s Habitat et cadre de vie scheme.

It is also possible to apply for a tax credit, worth 25% of the cost of adapting the property

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