Why senior living settings need a dedicated set of standards

Nigel Hopkins headshot
Nigel Hopkins
International Programme Director, Standards Wise International (SWI)

The announcement of a cross-department task force on housing for older people in the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, as reiterated in last month’s House of Lords debate on Housing for Older People, together with other recent Government white papers and reports, has put the spotlight firmly on care and senior living settings.

Providers of residential care and nursing homes, and home care services, are required to meet the standards set by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), but there are very few national standards specific to providers of other housing settings for those aged over 55.

What do we mean by standards?

The Collins English Dictionary defines ‘standards’ as:

An accepted or approved example of something against which others are judged or measured.

Standards are present in nearly all aspects of our lives: every product we use, the food we eat, the homes we live in and the services we access.

They exist to provide a benchmark of quality to guarantee not only that an item or service functions as it should, but also that it does so safely and without risk to life.

And the principle of standards is equally as important in senior living settings.

Standards in senior living settings

Dedicated standards in senior living settings will provide the foundation on which service provision is built, upholding the quality of service delivered to the consumer – all of whom are entitled to the same level of service excellence.

There are some legislative and regulatory frameworks for extra care/retirement housing and sector-led codes of practice, such as The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) consumer code (opens new window), in England and the ARHM codes of practice (opens new window) for England, Wales and Scotland, but senior living settings are mostly governed by general housing provision standards.

This needs to change; just as residential care homes have a set of specific standards to ensure the residents’ needs are met, so too does senior living settings.

A comprehensive set of quality standards, tailored to a senior living setting are a great opportunity for providers; standards enable them to improve on how they operate and manage customers and staff, as well as meet the current challenges of the sector and support the government’s visions for senior living.

For instance, the SWI senior living Standards and Accreditation process covers aspects ranging from Governance, and Management and Personnel, to Facilities Management and Resident Engagement and Experience.

Meeting a set of standards will contribute to providing a better experience and engagement of consumers, which ultimately delivers the best outcomes for a better quality of life.

Intergenerational living and inclusion

SWI firmly believes standards in senior living should extend beyond service provision, and aim for intergenerational and inclusion of the wider community.

Planners should consider how senior living settings and/or housing can be integrated into community infrastructure and developments, meanwhile senior living operators can include the wider community by hosting services such as medical clinics, or allowing the local community to use facilities.

The value of community integration and intergenerational living should not be underestimated; they reaffirm ongoing value and inclusion of older people in society, and in doing so, contribute towards negating negative attitudes to ageing.

Benefits for the consumer

The benefits of specialised housing in later life have long been recognised; the King’s Fund and University of York study (opens new window), Evaluating the Care and Support Specialised Housing (CASSH) programme: results of a scoping exercise, noted benefits varied from reduced visits to GPs, to reductions in use of community nursing services and care and care equipment costs, to a reduced likelihood of entering a care home or other long-term care.

As Jamie Bunce, CEO of Inspired Villages recently pointed out in Property Reporter (opens new window), because retirement communities support over 65s to live healthier, independent lives for longer this will alleviate pressure on the NHS.

Not everyone wants to live in a retirement village, but for those who are considering it, a lack of choice and affordability are often cited as barriers.

It is vital that consumers recognise that high standards in these settings will give them the confidence of receiving a quality service of their choice and certainty in costs, as well as a better outcome in terms of health and wellbeing.

How standards make a difference for the provider

Look at how a CQC rating helps a care setting provider; in the potential customer’s eye, the higher the rating, the more likely that provider becomes the provider choice.

A tick from the regulator gives the provider a demonstrable and visible commitment to ethical standards and customer service; it improves a provider’s reputation, and gives it recognition and differentiation in the market place.

Consumers aren’t the only ones who value good ratings.

Staff like working for an organisation which has principles of best practice in place; a demonstrable set of standards that cover staff management can also help with recruitment and retention of staff.

SWI believes standards are vital in planning and delivering services which provide the best possible service.

Maintaining standards isn’t just about a tick from regulatory bodies; standards bring pride and credibility to the provider, and are essential in helping providers be innovative, reduce costs, and maintain respect and competitiveness in the marketplace.

If you’re interested in learning more about Standards Wise International’s (opens new window) senior living Standards and Accreditation programme, get in contact

And, if you found this blog of interest, do also have a look at the dedicated pages on housing for older people curated by the Housing LIN.

Lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can provide you with bespoke support, please email us at: info@housinglin.org.uk or look at our consultancy page.


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