Older People Should Make Informed Decisions on Their Ageing Journey

Priscilla Yeung
Priscilla Yeung
Partnership and Marketing Officer, Two Generations

How homesharing and other housing options from the ground-up shape the UK's ageing care

I recently read the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) Commission policy discussion paper, Future options for housing and care, and two things that struck me are:

  1. There are guidelines and visions to provide adequate, diverse housing and care that are well thought through but the governmental institutions or even private property developers are not reacting quickly enough, despite the pressure and the business opportunity
  2. Older people deserve to be informed about the latest developments in their own housing and care. In turn, they can shape the life they want

Considering these points, in my view, homesharing is well-positioned to provide immediate, sustainable and all-encompassing solutions to older people’s housing needs. Let’s consider further what are these needs and why letting older people know and have a say over their options are very important.

The dynamics of older people

It’s important to remember that ageing is a gradual process, and the speed and quality of ageing are determined by a number of factors.

As a result, good housing and care for older people should include flexibility, adaptability and thorough consideration of the following three aspects of life (Keio University (opens new window)):

  1. Enriching social participation (i.e. regular friendship and community)
  2. Activities and health support (i.e. access to clinics and leisurely activities that encourage physical movements)
  3. Infrastructure that supports the above (e.g. community centre, free buses to clinics, sports classes)

A holistic approach that considers the physicality, functionality, social and mental wellbeing of the ageing population will provide significant cost saving in the long run. This slows down the speed of deterioration, helps maintain functionality for everyday life, and reduces the risk of dementia. From a societal level, these also relieve family members and NHS’ pressure, including the social care workforce mentioned in the Report.

Homesharing ticks the boxes

A diverse selection of housing option is paramount in catering for the various needs of older people. On one end of the spectrum, we have people who require full-time care. On the other, people who are at the beginning of their ageing journey, and as such, the care would need to be preventative and sustainable.

Homesharing refers to the situation where an older person shares the spare room in their own home (householder) with a younger person (homesharer). The homesharer will benefit from cheaper accommodation because, in addition to living with the householder, they will also involve actively in the wellbeing of the householder for a set amount of time every week.

The activities they can do together will cater very specifically to the needs of the householder. This includes food shopping, laundry, helping out around the house, companionship, helping with IT equipment, dining together, etc.

It immediately becomes clear that homesharing allows the older person to remain in their own home for as long as possible in their ageing journey - also known as “ageing in place”. Many older people prefer this option so much more than moving to a care home prematurely.

The bespoke approach of homesharing allows the older person to have a say over what exactly they need. This requires a good understanding of their own wellbeing and needs, which I will talk about more below.

Homesharing can be used to meet the three aspects that encompass “healthy ageing”. Apart from everyday social interaction that reduces loneliness, the homesharer can also become a valuable infrastructure for the older person’s activities. For example, one of the tasks a homesharer can do is to drive the older person to medical appointments and community activities.

Informed decision

The SCIE paper noted that “Public understanding of social care and the different housing options that facilitate care and support continues to be low (Health Foundation, 2018).”

We cannot dictate what each older person needs in the sense that throughout their ageing journey, they will have different and changing requirements to ensure their wellbeing. The paper noted that the Commission has recognised this, and agreed to widen citizen engagement and co-participation (p.16).

Most older people are perfectly capable of making wise decisions if they are aware of the options available. It’s the authorities’, social prescribers’ and our responsibility to maximise information available for them to shape the care package regularly throughout their old age.

As the Marketing and Partnership Manager of Two Generations CIC, a national homesharing matching organisation that’s part of Homeshare UK (and Homeshare International), my personal experience is that there are so many more practitioners and older people who are simply unaware of homesharing (and other housing and care options).

The UK’s population is ageing much more quickly than we have anticipated. By 2030, it is anticipated over 1 in 5 people will be 65 years and over (technically in the beginning of their ageing journey), the population aged 85 and over is the fastest growing (Office of National Statistics (opens new window)). This means that we must start revolutionizing housing and care options for this cohort now, and most likely from the ground-up.

I am optimistic about the future of older people’s care given the amount of attention we have started to pay to longevity and gerontology.

As more resources are put on reshaping the outdated housing market, architecture and older people care, older people will contribute to creating sustainable infrastructure that truly caters to their needs and future generations who will be themselves age in the future. Younger people will also become aware of their old-age options when they start to plan their lives in the future, information should be shared as freely and widely as possible.

Homesharing arrangements provide a great opportunity for intergenerational communication on what constitutes healthy ageing, a topic that is simply inevitable for everybody. It also allows older people to remain functional and independent in their own home for much longer, and reduce the strain on public spending on healthcare.

For more about Two Generations CIC, visit: https://twogenerations.co.uk/ (opens new window)

And, if you found this of interest, check out other relevant resources on homesharing curated by the Housing LIN on our dedicated topic page and more on intergenerational housing on our dedicated topic page.

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: info@housinglin.org.uk


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