Extra Care housing can play a vital role in reducing the isolation and loneliness of older people, but too few people benefit, warns a leading think-tank on ageing and demographic change.
A report by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) entitled "What role for extra care housing in a socially isolated landscape? (opens new window)" for the Housing Learning & Improvement Network, has found that older people who move into extra care housing very often find this brings great benefits to their social lives and helps them to develop new friendships.
The report argues that the design of extra care housing plays an important part in helping to develop a community spirit. Extra Care housing is designed so that each resident has their own self-contained home but with communal facilities - restaurants, health centres, hobby rooms - and assisted care all on-site. The degree of independence this offers combined with the communal areas, organised activities and specialist care enables Extra Care housing to create a lively atmosphere that helps foster new relationships and support networks.
The report finds however, that keeping the momentum of innovation, attracting an appropriate mix of residents and ensuring diversity in tenure are significant challenges for the sector.
ILC-UK argues there is a need to demonstrate to policy-makers the huge role that Extra Care housing can play in reducing the isolation and loneliness of older people to ensure that the right levels of funding for such schemes are made available.
Dr. Dylan Kneale, Head of Research at ILC-UK and author of the report, said:
"We know that loneliness is bad for our health and that around one in ten over 65s describes themselves as always or often lonely. Good housing could offer a solution to loneliness and isolation. Because of the ethos, design, activities, and sense of community within many Extra Care housing schemes, they offer potential to tackle isolation and loneliness. Extra Care providers should consider how they can ensure that their mix of residents, services and tenures, best contributes to tackling isolation."
Jeremy Porteus, Director of the Housing Learning and Improvement Network - the organisation who commissioned the research, said:
"This report makes an important contribution to our understanding of how a move to Extra Care housing can reduce the social isolation and loneliness experienced by older people and help facilitate opportunities for more active community living and participation. The evidence shows that this reaps dividend on the health and wellbeing of residents and helps maintain social networks. We need to build the findings in this very useful report and develop the momentum for enhancing the housing with care choices of older people."
Laura Ferguson, Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said:
"Our home and immediate environment has a massive impact on our ability to age sociably, which in turn can have an impact on our health. We all need support to make informed decisions about housing as we age, ideally backed up with the knowledge that housing is being designed with our physical, mental and emotional health needs in mind. This report makes it clear that those involved in developing housing solutions for our older population should focus on creating homes that promote connection and socialising."