Prevalent attitudes and assumptions mean that perceptions of older people in our society are uncomfortably poised between conflicting expectations: either of frailty and need; or of independence and self-sufficiency for longer than may be possible. Both approaches often leave our seniors side-lined.
A more positive approach is based on the belief that humans are naturally interdependent enabling a practice of ‘relational care’, which is not a one-way street where the recipient is disempowered and the giver exhausted, but a paradigm where wellbeing and meaning in life are supported in networks of trust based on mutual knowledge and acceptance.
My work over the last six years, interviewing some 150 older people and carers in many different care settings, offers collated evidence about the nature of good practices that facilitate relational care. Listening directly to those involved helps define the critical factors for environments that foster trust, love, and autonomy; and enable older people to contribute to their communities.
One of the most successful approaches in this respect, is that of creating intergenerational models. There are many proven ways of instituting this good practice from co-locating creches and residential care homes to creating intergenerational high streets.
These and many others are described and advocated by pioneering United for All Ages (opens new window) on its website. Many involve children, and more must done to increase interaction between young and older adults. Given that multigenerational family living is still the norm in many countries and cultures, and also in Britain until the last century, there are relatively few models to draw on.
There is a pressing need to overcome the continuing dislocation between delivery of health and social care as well as engrained assumptions about the value and agency of older people: housing practice and policy that facilitates more intergenerational support has a key part to play.
Jenny is author of ‘Making Relational Care Work for Older People: Exploring innovation and practice in everyday life’ published by Routledge, London and New York in 2021, and co-author of ‘Developing a Relational Model of Care for Older People: Creating environments for shared living’, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia in 2018.
If you found this blog of interest, do also have a look at the pages on Care and Support at Home curated by the Housing LIN.
And lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can provide you with bespoke support, please email us at: email@example.com or look at our consultancy page.