Future of Sheltered Housing

The 1960’s, 70’s and 8o’s saw the birth and big expansion of sheltered housing initially led by Local Authorities and Housing Associations.    Quickly followed by McCarthy and Stone and others in the private sector.    It was seen as a response to the increasing number of older people who needed a limited degree of support mainly in the absence of close family or friends.    The support was usually in the form of an on-site warden or “good neighbour”.   This form of housing has stood the test of time and provides a good option for many elderly people to this day.

However, expectations have risen in the last 50 years, particularly in relation to space standards and accessibility for disabled people.    Bedsits which may have been acceptable  in the 1960’s are now difficult-to-let.    Modifications to overcome these issues are expensive and not always possible.

At the very time when more retirement housing is required, Local Authorities are contemplating closure of some of their schemes.    Alternatively they are considering lowering the age limit for entry, which could well lead to some real “bad neighbour ” problems.

The regional press regularly carry stories of residents worrying about the possible “reconfiguration” of their schemes.   Just this week there are reports of both Rugby in Warwickshire and several schemes in Suffolk being considered for “de-sheltering”.      This is no doubt only the start of a much bigger transformation to come.

However closure of housing that was only built 50 or 60 years ago, should be the last resort.   There is no question that the concept of sheltered housing needs to be  brought up to date with the use of more flexible support services and improved accommodation, but it still remains a good option for independent living.   It allows people to down-size from family homes and for home owners to release some equity for their retirement.

Independent living still remains the first preference for most elderly people and we should try to accommodate that.

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2 Responses to Future of Sheltered Housing

  1. John a very interesting read, thought provoking, and thoughtful in its direction.
    Molly and I agree with your points of view, and wonder how for the elderly independent living, with support is to be provided? With all the facilities one may offer at a reasonable cost for all?
    I will now disappear into a natter with you, which I hope makes sense, based totally on my personal experiences and observations in life.
    In the 1950’s
    In my childhood days I lived in Aireborough (now a district within Metropolitan LEEDS).Here there was a preponderance of 3 bedroom (2 +Box Room) semi’s-terraced houses (private and council). There was a few O.A.P’s 1 bedroom bungalows (Terraced or semi) built in areas some 10 minutes walk from local amenities (Convenience stores/post office).
    In the 1960’s 70’s the then Aireborough Council built warden controlled housing for O.A.P’s in groups of maybe 10 to 15 residences. Again one bedroom apartments only, with one common room which all residents could use.
    In the 1980’s-90’s.
    Here I had my own family to raise and look after. The employment market as I the saw it in the shipping industry (Shore based) required myself and family to be mobile and as a result we grew independent of the various family groups.
    OLD AGE Accommodation
    During the late 1980’s and 90’s our parents required housing appropriate to their personal needs, and income. My family moved into a one bed roomed bungalow, in Aireborough. The premises were a good 20 minutes walk from any local shopping centre. The bungalow was of then fairly modern construction, with central heating and a moderate garden.
    My in-laws moved and were allocated a modern warden controlled terrace house with one And a half bedrooms, kitchen/diner and a lounge and upstairs bathroom… My father in law was distraught! He had been used to 2 and 3 bedroom houses of a more spacious nature.
    OLD AGE for Molly and me 2000+
    By this time we had raised a family and spent our last 10 years in the house of our aspirations (Not our dreams-This we held as a stone built house somewhere in the West Riding)
    We assessed our requirements for the latter days of our life, being uncertain of what we wished for, or indeed what was available.
    During this period we visited O.A.P. schemes run by Hanover Housing, Warden controlled some 30 dwelling on an estate (Semi’s and Terrace bungalows). All were on bedroom houses with a lounge diner/a kitchen and a bathroom.
    We also went around a number of private housing (Such as Mc Cathy Stone) in various local locations. Here we noted particularly that most of the dwellings (up to 60 in a complex) where built as flats in a single building. There was one common room and a warden manager, on duty Care was hired privately, but security was by a common key system. One aspect of one development we noted was that the access corridors and lifts were not wheelchair friendly, either on your own or with an attendant carer. The access corridors were not wide and permitted the passage of a wheelchair, there was not room for 2 wheelchairs travelling in opposite direction to pass, simultaneously.
    Another scheme we looked around in the West Riding was a registered nursing/care home facility with 3 wings,
    One for independent and mobile dwellers. One for nursing care residents, and one for residential care home patients. The residential wing had some 38 to 40 dwellings for A.O.P’s (55’s and Over) There were all two bedroom flats with living room/kitchen/dinette and a bathroom
    A Positive Solution
    WE then became aware and very interested in a development by the ‘Extracare Charitable Trust’ called a ‘RETIREMNT VILLGE. This was a revelation. If available one was given the option of either a one or two bedroom apartment, in a central complex, and there were if one wished a handful of two bedroom one bedroom bungalows (Much sought after) on the same site.
    In all there were 254 dwelling, the alleyways/corridors/ streets to each apartment, were wide and spacious with room for two wheelchairs with a helper to simultaneously pass. Outside each apartment is an electrical power point where one can recharge ones mobility scooter or electric wheelchair. All apartments and bungalows are designed for the older person (55+), with consideration to internal lighting/power points/wet rooms and kitchen fittings. Serious consideration has been given to internal wheel chair access, support alarms, an a comprehensive support packages and a very comprehensive fire alarm system and zoning to protect all residents and staff, in all parts of the retirement village.
    There are at ground level village communal areas which are mobility and wheelchair friendly, and accessible. The complex has the following facilities for all residents and staff;
    Reception area and information desk
    Convenience store
    Keep fit Gymnasium
    IT Suite- Internet connections
    Hair and Beauty Saloon
    Wood working shop
    Village Hall and Restaurant (Which can be opened into one large communal area (150+ Persons)
    Bar and Cafe
    Various lounges/rooms and craft rooms that can be hire out for meetings dealing with village issues or family occasions. One room has been designed for the problems associated with senile dementia and alzhmiers suffers.
    For Consideration- The Question?
    The above are just comments! What I wish to observe in your comments John is Housing, in this present day.
    Policy in general and in particular.
    From the tenure of your letter/blog above you are suggesting if I am correct that for housing we as a nation and individuals will have to consider some radical changes, and subtle attitudes towards our neighbours, and neighbourhoods.
    Since the 1950’s many things have changed in social behaviour! Divorce is simpler but more complex? The result we have many divided families (one parent in middle age and maybe two single persons in old age (Not bereaved as may have been the case with O.A.P’s in the 1950-60’s)
    We have our present day crisis for the young of being able to afford independent living until well into their mature years.
    All this to my mind brings strain to the UK housing stock, and how do we all live? As individuals or as a family?
    In the late 1990’s there appears to be a preponderance of accommodation to let in the private sector of studio flats and one bedroom flats in the newer and older housing stock.
    These may be all right for a young individual, not I suggest for the O.A.P. (55+), or young families.
    It is questionable as to what is to become if we all need to adjust to this type of housing, especially the elderly if they need support and wheel chair access to the apartment and then within it.
    From your comments John I read aloud that Housing for the O.A.P (55+) prior to the 1980’s is now unsuitable for its intended tenants, and requires upgrading. Here I think aloud? The total costs for a scheme or collection of O.A.P. accommodation may be unsuitable to some? To make an economic case of occupancy these landlords have to encourage multiple occupancy by different social groups? In this instance the O.A P has to with the possible new neighbours establish a cohabit able working relationship. Especially if the new tenants is under 55, or has young dependents.
    This may seem illogical, however in previous era’s the total floor are for a dwelling may, by modern standards appear generous for a single or couple, so making the properties desirable to other persons than the over 55’s.
    {I remember in 1970’s in our semi in Bedfordshire the total floor area was some 15-1600 square feet, which to my mind was more generous than my boyhood home in Aireborough.}
    One thing of importance that I have appreciate, now that I am retired is security of tenancy and also physical in the access to my apartment and the village environment in general. It is gives one piece of mind…
    I firmly believe a well thought out retirement village, as conceived by The Extracare Charitable Trust has many advantages to offer to everyone? However it is not all for the taking? I have to consider what I can offer the retirement village, my neighbours and community, in this being a desirable place to reside, in my opinion

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