ARCO stands for Associated Retirement Community Operators. It was formed in 2012 and is a diverse collection of providers of retirement housing in the UK. They represent 27 operators who between them provide more than 50% of the current provision in the UK. In July of this year I went to their first annual conference which was attended by nearly 300 other delegates all from around the UK. This in itself is an indication of the substantial level of interest there is in this area.
The full conference programme papers have not yet been released so these are very much my first impressions of the discussions by the conference speakers. It was an interesting programme with speakers from Brazil and America as well as the UK. The main themes emerging from the conference topics were Demographics, Dementia, Marketing and Regulation. I’ll talk about them in my next few blogs:-
The keynote address was by Professor Alexandre Kalache, who is the Co-President of the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance. He is also the former head of the World Health Organisation, Global Programme on Ageing. The title of his speech was “Living Longer / Living Well” and that summed up the reality and hope of most of what he had to say. It’s well-known that there is an ageing population in most of the developed countries in the Northern Hemisphere but less well appreciated that there is an increasingly aged population in China, Japan, India and Brazil. Whilst people are living longer and healthier lives, many older people still live in poverty. Loneliness and social isolation is a major issue for older people in many countries including our own.
One interesting fact he quoted was that “70% of US wealth is in the hands of baby boomers”. Whilst this might seem like good news, it only is if they can convert their wealth into a tradeable resources to purchase support services and appropriate housing. Professor Kalache was the instigator of the Age Friendly Cities initiatives which is intended to ensure that older people in their “golden years” have a happy life. It’s yet to be seen whether this initiative achieves very much for people in later life. (You can see in the TAG CLOUD by clicking on Age Friendly my earlier blogs on this subject).
His ending words of caution, which were no doubt coloured by his experience of the huge elderly populations living in poverty in Brazilian cities, but also by the very large retirement communities in places like the USA and elsewhere were:-
“Don’t build ghettos”
This seemed a rather strange thing to say to an audience of people whose desired intention is to build more retirement communities. Nonetheless they are wise words which were repeated later in the conference by the speaker talking about marketing.
One final thing that the Professor did was to involve the audience. We were asked how long we thought we would live and whilst a minority of people thought they would die before they reached 80, the majority thought they would die between and 80 and 90 years of age and a hopeful few thought they would live beyond this. The Professor was able to confirm that the majority were correct. His next question was more challenging when he asked what you were most likely to die from. A few thought cancer, rather more thought Alzheimer’s would lead to their demise, some thought they were likely to die from a chronic illness such as congenital heart disease. The majority hoped to die a sudden death from something like a heart attack or quietly pass away at home in their sleep. This time the Professor had to disabuse the audience of their wishful thinking. He confirmed that statistically only about 10% of people die a peaceful sudden death. The majority of us are destined to die in hospital after a period of illness.
The sobering message from this quick survey of professionals in the field of retirement housing is that our elderly customers generally do not set aside enough money to provide for care and support in their later years. Nor indeed in the UK at least, does the pensions industry and insurance market provide appropriate financial products for end of life care.
More to follow in my next blogs.