Most of us are living longer than our parents. By 2038, there will be an additional 3 million people over 75, and most of us will need some support in the later years of life. However, our housing market is poorly prepared for a growing number of people who need some help to live independently, but don’t need full-scale residential care.
The government has no plan
The government made much of its plans to ‘fix’ the problems of social care for older people. But in reality, they were mainly plans to prevent people having to sell their homes to pay for care. Furthermore, 80 percent of the funds raised by the health and social care levy on National Insurance will go to the NHS, not social care.
One of the many issues created by an ageing society is how to ensure that the right kinds of housing are available to meet people’s aspirations and needs. For most people, the only options are to remain, possibly isolated, in a home which is poorly adapted to their needs, and perhaps much larger than they want, or to move to an expensive, and unnecessary, residential care home.
The shortage of appropriate housing is bad for older people, and for the housing market. It is expensive for the state, a major cause of the problems of the NHS.
Good opportunities are rare
A lucky minority have the choice of housing-with-care in integrated retirement communities, which offer the opportunity to live independently in their own home as part of a wider community, but with some degree of support, and a focus on keeping people well and independent.
Such communities offer homes for purchase, part-purchase or rent. Two thirds are affordable. They provide facilities like restaurants, gyms and gardens, personal and domestic care when needed, optional social and leisure activities and support links with local communities, friends and relatives.
They are run by not-for-profit organisations and private providers, but they are rare, and non-existent in many parts of the country. The Association of Retirement Communities Operators (ARCO) supports such communities across the UK, setting standards for the sector, and representing the interests of consumers and providers at national level.
However, it lists fewer than 20 such communities in the East of England, providing perhaps 1500 homes, and none in Norfolk or Suffolk, although both counties have high numbers of retired people.
This does not sit well with the claims that somewhere between 200,000 and 1,500,000 such homes might be needed over the next 25 years. We badly need good research into the precise scale and nature of the need.
A review is launched
In response to this, Professor Les Mayhew, head of global research at the International Longevity Centre (UK), has been commissioned to carry out a review of the case for Integrated Retirement Communities (IRCs) and the scale of provision needed.
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, which has commissioned the study, said:
“For the levelling-up, which the Government and its White Paper have promised, to really mean something for older people, it has to mean that, wherever you live in the UK, you will be able to enjoy your retirement, maintain your independence, and access the support you may need as you age.
“In far too many parts of the UK, this is not an option – whole swathes of the North and Midlands of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, lack good housing-with-care options for older people. That’s why we are calling for older people to have a right to access this support if they need it.”
Professor Mayhew said:
“We know that there are hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of older people across the UK who would like, at some point in their lives, to be able to access housing-with-care – but so far, no one has undertaken a thorough analysis of just how many older people there might be in this category. The Government is right to be prioritising this sector, but policy can only be developed effectively based on research.
“The potential is huge – and it could transform the UK’s social care landscape, as well as supporting wider housing policy. I am delighted to have the opportunity to undertake this vital research and would welcome contributions from all stakeholders.”
An invitation to contribute views
ARCO is inviting sector stakeholders, investors, operators, academics and older people themselves to submit evidence to the Mayhew Review. ARCO will also be gathering evidence and holding meetings itself to inform the Review.
For further information please contact: Gareth Lyon, Head of Policy and Communications, at [email protected] or on 07535 088498.