Welsh Older People’s Housing 1

Last week I wrote a scathing critique of the Governments White Paper on Housing and my view that it will do very little to improve the desperate shortage of housing for older people in the U.K.   At much the same time the Welsh Assembly had received a report on housing options for older people in Wales and I have been asked to comment on that by one of the reports expert contributors.

The report is entitled ” OUR HOUSING AGENDA: MEETING THE ASPIRATIONS OF OLDER PEOPLE IN WALES “.    It took a year to produce and it is a subject close to my heart.    At first glance it looks more comprehensive and wider in its implications for other related services than the UK Government’s hastily cobbled together White Paper.        It deserves more consideration than a short blog, so over the next few weeks I will publish my comments in a series of  weekend posts.     Rather like the   chapel ministers I remember hectoring their congregations on Sundays 😀

  • Overall it is a very good scoping review with an holistic outlook on the housing problems of older people.
  • It makes clear that most people want to stay in their own homes and certainly stay in their own community.
  • Nonetheless, the report recognises that this can be increasingly difficult in terms of mobility, frailty and the upkeep of older housing as people get older and more isolated

The report seems to have started a with pre-judged conclusion that new better quality retirement housing is the obvious solution to older peoples housing needs.     Given that I spent most of my working life developing and managing retirement housing, you might expect me to agree with this, but I don’t.    Of course new housing has a part to play, but it will only ever reach a few of the many elderly people with needs which go beyond accommodation.

Much could be done to help people remain in their own homes at a fraction of the cost of providing them with new housing, especially when so many of them have expressed this as a preference :-

  • An All-Wales falls prevention programme, as commented on in the report, could save the NHS money and enable people to remain in their own homes.    Especially if it was complemented with a substantial aides and adaptations budget.
  • An energy conservation programme for the many older properties in Wales would improve health as well as saving on household expense.
  • A welfare benefits check has been shown to significantly increase the uptake of state benefits and reduce the number of elderly people living on or near the poverty line.
  • All these services exist in some areas.    A more co-ordinated one stop later life service could raise the profile and effectiveness of the provision to enable people to “age in place”
  • These things alone won’t be enough, attention also needs to be given to transport and social opportunities, to address the issue of social isolation.   I will come back to this later.

These are not directly housing issues but indirectly they often lead to greater costs in hospital or residential care and ultimately are the negative reason why older people have to move on from their life long home.    Furthermore, support for these issues addresses the core aspiration of most older people which is to stay in their own home.

So my first key observation is that dealing with the broader issues in this report will reach far more older people at a much lower cost  than building new retirement housing.

I do acknowledge that this will  not be enough to meet the needs of the growing numbers of older people and their increasing frailty.      More housing will be part of the answer, but the question is  :-

Can it be delivered on the scale envisaged in the report ?

Innovation has to be the other dimension, because everything tried so far hasn’t kept pace with the problem.    It is however difficult to deliver without bold and imaginative thinking.   It needs seed funding for pilot projects and rigorous evaluation, before rolling out on a bigger scale.

These two issues will be covered in my next two Sunday posts …………..

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2 Responses to Welsh Older People’s Housing 1

  1. davidwfreeman237 says:

    Dear John, I note today’s response by you, to the subject of Welsh Older Peoples Housing! I have read and reread your comments, and I wish to respond: I cannot comment on the social and political aspects of the research done on behalf of the people in Wales? I do however as a ‘’user’’ or your vision for the older person reply, maybe not as you wish, but by observation’s, with respect to my life and domicile within England with my wife (Molly) and family, and greater family.
    I have been fortunate in life, I have been born into a middle England family, with faith beliefs, as has Molly. I have managed through family love and support followed a career, again not outside my boundaries, but with the as taught Christian Values and beliefs, that while I followed with my family Molly and I followed careers and life styles: Looking after our own firstly, we then and still have consideration for others, within the greater family circle and then out with, by supporting and acting responsibly, by paying taxes. Voting when required, and respecting, but making the laws of the land accountable to social beliefs, and not personal gains or ends. Here endeth this broadcast. Now for the subject matter!
    Formative Years
    My formative years were in the woollen and tailoring districts of Leeds, a council school, and a private semi on and within a 30’s built council estate. I then went to a state secondary modern and at 13+ a state secondary technical school, from where I joined a British Shipping Company as an apprentice engineer cadet, and spent the first two years at Middlesbrough Tech, and while there in digs with a kind land lady and her Husband, who was a stevedore/docker on Middlesbrough docks, in a terrace house, in the centre of Middlesbrough and they took in various lodgers from time to time. I then went to the Tyne and spent 6 months in Jarrow, again in a terrace house, this time it was a registered Police digs, (here the preference was trainee policemen, or workers with references to local industries. (There could be some 6 of us at a time). Evenings out as a ‘coppers-nark is another story’ I then went to South Shields for pre-sea engine room training (academic/practical) at the tech. Here I was in digs with a landlady, and her shipyard worker husband, in digs recommended by the Tech, and there were 4 /6 of us in a room and some 10 students of ages 17-21, studying, engineering in both power plant and radio communications aboard a ship. Again in an old part of the town amongst lots of terrace house of which we resided in one of them.
    The purpose of this is that I have rubbed shoulders and had the corners knocked off.
    My beliefs ‘Housing for the elderly’.
    I have found in John and his fellow board members in 2005 when Molly and I came across them, with the Extracare Charitable Trust and their vision of a ‘’ Retirement village’’ realistically, and offered Molly and I and our family, some freedom from worries that may overtake both Molly and I and our immediate family, as we progress through our golden years in retirement to possible infirmity, and at the end death of one or other of us. It is now 2017 we still are living the visionary life that John and his board members alluded too! It is not all plain sailing and we still have to have our wits about us, but the residents and staff, (our friends and neighbours), talk and keep us sane with a rhetorical response, or a good belly laugh, and a joke, so we do not become too pompous or detached from reality.
    Why a retirement village?? My greater family and Molly’s lived in communities, especially our grandparents and parents. Liverpool was mine, working in the shipping industry in some capacity or another, Molly’s lived in Ayrshire working in the mining communities. The older generations, looked after one and other, and often in later days went to live with relatives.
    Molly and I had to look after my mother, with my three sister’s family, and we all had younger families ourselves. We had contemplating converting the garage and its roof space into a grannie annex: My three sisters at the time had children of middle school years, and houses that had not the physical room to take in an aging parent. We had a family council of war, and talks with my mother who was over 80+ and dad had died. [Mum and dad had bought a 0ne/two bed bungalow, their dream at the time, and affordable within the community they wished both neighbours and social (shopping/bingo etc.) and dad still drove.]. In the district of Leeds we learnt that residential/nursing homes/ warden controlled housing was available: however within the great Leeds Metropolitan district, not Mums locality. We talk and discussed matters with mum, and things become fraught, mum was diagnosed with the onset of dementia, and when tried and discussed the feasibly and trial day time companions, and night time nurses. Mum was adamant and would have none of these; mum wished to remain independent and living alone with her memories of dad in the house they had bought together as their last resting place; The immediate consequence was to my three sisters and I were telephone calls from Mum any time during the day or night for comfort and consolation, or just plain help! My sisters lived in the locality, I lived not in Leeds but Milton Keynes. We had another family council of war! We were all seriously worried, with Mums behaviour, and the neighbours were starting to contact us and were also worried about mum, the upshot to us was that Mum would or maybe be sectioned, by social services, and sent to a ‘’retreat’’ of their choice; not what the family were trying to achieve. Mum would not accept leaving the house at any cost? This was the New Year than in the summer, we all four children and our families had to be away (Go on school holidays for some 2/3 weeks), so we could not be around for Mum. We talked again, my younger sister Penny knew and had heard of two Anchor Homes in the area one was a nursing home, the other a residential home. Both were visited and the residential home had a respite vacancy, we took the opportunity, and Mum agreed as it was only for 2/3 weeks, and as there would be no family around. We all came back fro holiday, and my younger sister went into the Anchor residential Home and talked to the manager and staff. They were very happy with mums behaviour and attitude, and the onset of dementia was no problem [provided they could monitor it- Should Mum become a resident?]. We then, the family talked to Mum all at different times.
    The Mum I knew was back, she was delighted with the Anchor Home, and as my sisters had discovered had a full time vacancy for a new resident, so we asked Mum How about? Mum was delighted and over the Moon, she was feed a regular intervals, clothed/dressed/ bathed and entertained with social gatherings most afternnons, and on a certain day of the week could have her hair done. One plus for us was there was a registered attendind GP, so Mum no longer had to be taken or catch a bus to the Local GP’s clinic. Mum moved in in 2006 and died happy, still in the Anchor home in 2016 at the age of 94.
    This is a saga; I make no apologies, as we grow older, we can become our own worst enemies, and while the state/council will look after one, it may not be in the locality, one may wish for many reasons, and again , for what reason???
    The choice of where to live and how to live in Old age is a poison chalice, and while young enough and still able; please think about what you wish for. Society does care? But do not leave it until there are no choices left.

  2. Kay Phillips says:

    The report is a comprehensive overview of all the policy directions that could be taken forward and all the latest thinking on the issue – but we’ll be waiting forever for a top-down approach to creating transformational change to take effect. What about starting from the bottom-up and with a practical focus – using all this knowledge, combined with some dedicated funding to make a real difference on the ground in one or two communities.
    It’s still not a quick fix and will take time to get results, but there will be some inspirational best practice to share and at least some older people will start to feel the benefit in the forseeable future.

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