Both my parents are in their 80s and still live at home in their respective properties. Their care needs are currently around failing health rather than social care. Because of this they make use of the local NHS primary and hospital services in the areas where they each live.
My mother has problems with deteriorating health. While she can manage at home without support, she sees her GP frequently, and on occasions is admitted to hospital for treatment.
She lives in a converted first floor, two bed flat, in a typical city suburb. Her flat accommodates her needs at present but there is no lift access and getting up and down stairs is becoming increasingly difficult. She has investigated what retirement communities exist in her neighbourhood. Much of this is for sale and she claims is unaffordable. As a result, she has no desire to move and is content with her immediate community links and friendship circle.
“We need lifetime neighbourhoods. This includes rejuvenating high streets by making them age-friendly, creating more accessible public venues, and improving public transport.”
My mother is also a carer and the size of her flat enables my brother to stay over from time to time. However, in the past, she has mentioned that she could let out a room or take in a homesharer should she need help or company.
My father is frailer and fractured his shoulder in a recent fall. It will not fully recover. As a result, he also is a frequent NHS user, especially of local outpatient services. He lives in a small rural hamlet and is no longer able to drive. He is dependent on his partner and neighbours for transport, the majority of whom are also of retirement age. It’s a naturally occurring retirement community.
My father doesn’t yet need personal care and is fortunate that he lives in an area where people look out for each other. There may come a time when he will deteriorate physically and will require home care and/or adaptations so that he can live independently. He has recently replaced his bath with a walk-in shower and is aware of the possibility of further futureproofing their home to accommodate changing needs, as the nearest purpose-built retirement community is over 15 miles away.
In terms of my own requirements, my partner and I have already adapted our home so that it is modern and spacious, but also a ‘care ready’ environment. Our house meets the needs of my disabled partner and myself and will enable us to either manage our own care, or to access personal care in future. We have also chosen to live in a small town within walking distance of all facilities and public transport. Should we want (or need) to move, we would prefer an affordable (private rented or owned), urban and contemporary apartment, which is adaptable and is still within easy walking distance to local amenities and transport.
Five key steps towards housing for an ageing population
To get to the future of housing for our ageing population we need a roadmap which involves changes to local and national policies on planning, design, care provision, and financial incentives for operators, whether public or commercial.
- Local planning: We need lifetime neighbourhoods. This includes rejuvenating high streets by making them age-friendly, creating more accessible public venues, and improving public transport. Intergenerational estates and schemes have benefits for all residents, and should be more widely promoted.
- National Design Standards: Government needs to improve guidance on HAPPI/Lifetime Homes. Doing so will improve the design quality and standards of all new build homes as well as adapting existing ones.
- Planning and market shaping: Government needs to improve local authority planning guidance for our ageing population and promote the wider economic benefit to the housing market.
- Investment: Introduction of a range of personal finance options, through housing equity and access to low interest ‘help to retire’ loans, to meet the cost of moving and whatever we might require financial assistance with to enable us to continue to live independently.
- Consumer confidence: Buyers want to know that their apartments and scheme have been designed and operated to a high standard. Government needs to introduce retirement community legislation and legally enforceable standards. A consumer code for retirement housing is also needed.
“Buyers want to know that their apartments and scheme have been designed and operated to a high standard. Government needs to introduce retirement community legislation and legally enforceable standards.”
And finally, impartial and independent advice is crucial. Better informed older consumers will demand improvements in the range of local housing options that can best meet their changing needs and lifestyles. Access to impartial and independent advice and information about our future housing and care choices in later life is therefore crucial.
This essay by the Housing LIN’s Jeremy Porteus is one of 14 that have been published in ARCO’s ‘The Housing with Care Grey Paper: Personal stories and policy ideas on strengthening housing with care for older people’ (reproduced with their permission).
If you found this of interest, check out other relevant resources curated on our dedicated extra care housing webpages.
And, lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can support you develop your housing for older people strategic vision and/or operational plans to meet the future accommodation needs of older adults, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org