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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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David Stewart, 69, is a retired architect Image of David Stewart

Older people are very much prejudiced by the environment. While we have legislation in the late 80s for better access - mostly to buildings - (this was covered by Part R of the building regulations which would be administered by the 26 district councils), most of that legislation covered 'disabled'. But we must remember that a person needn't be 60 or 65 to be…and they needn't be disabled. All they have to be is just have somewhat arthritic or something like that, so they have to endure all the rigours that disabled people endure in the environment.

So we're talking about this legislation which, in those days, asked for accessibility for all public buildings. That means to say, they had to have a toilet which was sufficiently large to accommodate a disabled person or a very old person; there had to be level access; there had to be lifts to higher floors in buildings; and then, that was reasonably successful in that it only applied to new buildings. Obviously nine-tenths of our environment consisted of older buildings - and only if there was massive reconstruction or redevelopment in older buildings, could we implement part R of the building regulations.

But the most important thing I would like to dwell on is where people live, where older people live - everyone lives in a house - and recently in the last three years, part M of the building regulations came into force. That called for a room large enough to take a bed on the ground floor; it called for a room large enough to take a bath or a shower; and, most important of all, it called for accessibility to one entrance into that.

Now there has been a great reluctance on the part of the district councils, we understand, to implement this legislation and this is a very, very important aspect of development - to serve the needs of - not just disabled - but older people in general. We now know that, in another few years, there'll be more people over 60 than over 16, and so it's very, very important that these aspects be taken account of in the 26 district councils who administer the building regulations.

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