Age of opportunities

Age of Opportunities

ARTICLE · By Camilla Hair · 03 Feb 2020

With the number of over 65-year-olds set to increase by almost half in the next 20 years, the Timber Trade Federation and its members explore the business opportunities opening up for carpenters and joiners. 


Courtesy of Metsa

Hoppings_Q-GRIP MAIN

Courtesy of Hoppings

One in four of the population will be aged 65 or over by 2037, according to projections from the Office of National Statistics.  This bonus of longer life also comes with a need to adapt living spaces creatively, to enable people to stay in their homes for as long as possible.

There is a distinct role for the wood industries, across the supply chain from product design to installation for homeowners, in facilitating the needs of older people. Carpenters and joiners particularly are blessed with the skills and creativity to design and fit adaptations that truly work for homeowners. Timber suppliers have a complimentary set of knowledge, and are actively seeking out products to enable IoC members to grow their businesses and their reputations with this increasing marketplace.

With the developments in society over the past 50-60 years, it is no surprise that the Office of National Statistics has revealed that, due to rising property values, the highest personal wealth by age group in 2014-16 were 55-64-year-olds, closely followed by those over 65.  In stark business terms alone, the market demographics are looking positive for those most likely to both want and have the funds to commission adaptations to their homes.

The Centre for Ageing Better, in conjunction with the Building Research Establishment and the University of the West of England’s Bristol campus, co-operated in research, published in 2017, which found strong evidence that minor home adaptations (such as installing extra handrails) were cost-effective in preventing falls and injuries.  However most older people put off installing adaptations until a crisis occurs because they do not want to ‘medicalise’ their homes.  Creating adaptations such as ramps, kitchen adaptations, and wooden handrails around the home which blend into their surroundings is where the skills of IoC members will become in ever-greater demand.  Working with your TTF member supplier to choose appropriate timbers for such projects will add an extra dimension when pitching for adaptation work.

One example of successful material choice for an elderly care home recently came from TTF member International Timber.  Working with Farrans Construction, contractors to JP Corry, International Timber assisted in the choice of African hardwood Iroko, and its transformation into four different profiles for the Grassy Meadows care home.   “We successfully created four profiles sufficiently distinctive to allow the residents at the centre to identify which level of the building they were on,” reports David Hogg, Product Manager at International Timber.  The company has set up a special section of their business called ‘Intelligence’, which aims to help customers seeking out different timbers and possibilities to create a differentiating factor for their projects.

In July, RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) launched a paper on designing age-friendly homes, in which it reported that 9% of all households in England already have at least one person with a long-term disability that required home adaptations.  RIBA also estimated the cost of inappropriate housing for the over 55s is likely to rise to £1 billion per year by 2041.  The age of the UK’s housing stock, however, is not as kind as it could be to an ageing population. Nearly 40% of housing was built before 1946, with around 20% dating from pre-1919.

Installing adaptations in these properties is more challenging.  TTF members such as Richard Burbidge offer boxed handrail kits, saving time at the point of installation.  Where space is more limited, an alternative handrail would be to use a standard decorative moulding, but one that is easy for an older hand to to grasp, such as a pig’s ear or mopstick profile from Snows Timber. Your TTF member supplier may be able to advise on choice from the great diversity of mouldings available across the country.

Courtesy of Snows Timber

A further report by the Centre for Ageing Better, ‘The State of Ageing in 2019’, found that 93% of current homes do not have features that make them useable by those with additional needs, for example level access or sufficiently wide doorways. IoC members are ideally placed to help fulfil such needs.

Longer lengths of natural timbers for creating bespoke wheelchair-friendly widths for door apertures can be obtained from specialists such as TTF member Wardell Long Lengths, who serve length demands going up to 7.8m in dimensions of up to 300x300mm.  For structural alterations associated with widening door apertures, glulam beams are now being produced for sale in the UK at a more domestic scale by companies such as TTF member Sodrä Wood UK.  An alternative is C24 finger-jointed, laminated softwood carcassing, for example from Jordeson Timber, which is available in lengths up to 13.6m.

Sodra Wood- Glulam - Age of opportunities article

Glulam Beams courtesy of Sodra

Jordeson Timber- Derome_finger_jointed_Swedish_carcassing- Age of opportunities article

Courtesy of Jordeson Timber

Stair treads and risers can form another obstacle to people wanting to stay in their own homes as long as possible.  Many older properties have either risers that are too high to manage for people with hip and knee problems, or stair treads which are narrow and potentially unsafe.  Here again IoC members can play a part in alleviating problems.

Laminated timber products, now common in window manufacture, are also useful for staircases.  TTF member James Latham’s patented WoodEx® range of laminated timbers includes laminated European species such as Ash, Oak and Redwood, and laminated hardwoods such as Sapele and Red Grandis.  Laminated timbers are, to a fair extent, replacing products such as traditional wide whitewood sections for staircase work.

Preventing slips, trips and falls, particularly in outside space used by older people, is where anti-slip, or ‘enhanced grip’ timber decking comes into its own. There are multiple variations on this theme now available from TTF member suppliers, from textured surfaces on composite decking, such as Trex® from Arbor Forest Products, to anti-slip aggregate inserts embedded in deck boards, such as Q Grip from Hoppings Softwood Products and CitiDeck from Marley. Taking an altogether ‘softer’ approach is WalkSure from Metsä Wood, which features a rubber compound insert strongly bonded to the timber, giving a cushioned feel and reducing noise by deadening sound.

Making sure the door will be able to withstand extensive weathering is also important to maintaining the integrity of the door, and thus security of the home.

One innovative timber product now being used by manufacturer JB Kind for its External Extreme doors is MEDITE® TRICOYA® EXTREME® outdoor MDF, otherwise known as MTX.  Easy to machine with a CNC router, it produces a consistent surface for painting, and its weather-proof surface has enabled a 10-year guarantee to be offered by JB Kind.

Security is another area in which creative adaptations will need to be provided.  It is estimated that two-thirds of burglars enter a property through the front door.  Providing entrance doors in timbers that will withstand attempts at entry could provide additional business for carpentry & joinery firms able to offer that service.

Adaptations for the elderly also feature in the new trend towards inter-generational homes, where multiple generations are living together under one roof.  With a plethora of ‘Timber you can Trust’ from your TTF member supplier, and a developing market for the wood skills offered by IoC members, a new age of opportunity is certainly opening up ahead.

Courtesy of James Latham

Tricoya Extreme, courtesy of JB Medite

This article was first published in Cutting Edge magazine, Institute of Carpenters, December 2019.