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Survey: Housing for older people must be improved

Words: Laura Edgar
Retirement communities / iStock

Nine in 10 people believe that the government should improve and create more housing options for older people, indicate the results of a survey.

Conducted by Later Life Ambitions (LLA) and the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), the survey also found that 56 per cent of those asked are interested in moving. This rise to 70 per cent if it could be somewhere with care and support as an alternative to a care home.

However, 53 per cent report that their local area does not have enough downsizing options, including those with care.

A mix of ages across the the UK was surveyed, with 62 per cent age 65 and over. When asked to rank their priorities for the government, the creation of alternatives to care homes came first – followed by developing a clear national strategy to encourage growth. Responders also cited more information about choices and making changes to the planning system as important.

Of the responders, 14 per cent want to move specifically to a retirement community, which is an option that combined independent living with on-site, Care Quality Commission-regulated care if needed, communal facilities and services.

In the UK, just 0.6 per cent of people have the opportunity to live in such a facility, compared with 5-6 per cent in New Zealand, Australia and the US.

Michael Voges, executive director of ARCO, said the survey results demonstrate “starkly the gulf between what housing and care options people want when they are older, and those currently available to them”.

“A majority of older people are interested in moving should there be the right option in their local area, but the current supply of good-quality housing and care is simply nowhere near enough to meet demand.

“When 90 per cent of people call on the government to widen housing options for older people, including those providing care, then it is time to listen and act swiftly.”

Lisa Ray, general secretary of the Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance and Later Life Ambitions Partner, added: “Appropriate and comfortable housing helps older people maintain independence, wellbeing and physical health. Needs and preference evolve with age, but the options available have not kept up with demand.

“Successive governments have failed to address this issue. With more than half of those who took part in the survey saying they were interested in downsizing, but local offers were not good enough, the research shows how urgently solutions are required. It is time for the government to take action.”

ARCO and LLA have made a number of recommendations in response to the survey results. These include that:

  • The government should encourage the development of a wider range of housing options for older people, including those where care is available for those who need it.
  • The government should work to develop alternatives to care homes, such as housing-with-care.
  • Improvements in the planning system to encourage the growth in specialist housing options for older people – especially those where care and support is available.
  • The government and the sector should work together to improve clarity and certainty about the fees, charges and rules relating to moving into specialist older people’s housing, building on existing good practice in parts of the sector.
  • The sector should work with the government on introducing clarity in terminology for the different older people’s housing settings, and to provide more information to prospective residents.

The survey and recommendations in full can be found on the ARCO website (pdf).

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Image credit | iStock