Another way to help transform housing and healthcare for all

Blog posted

20th December 2017

Housing is in short supply and yet increasing numbers of older residents remain living in under-occupied family homes that are becoming increasingly challenging to maintain. There is also increasing pressure on the healthcare system.

In 2015-16 1.3 million people over the age of 65 were admitted to hospital, according to figures released by NHS Digital – the figures continue to rise as the population ages.

When many of those elderly are in hospital, they find themselves blocking beds because there is insufficient support for them to return to their own home. Solve the housing conundrum and maybe we can ease the burden on the current healthcare system.

As a nation we need to provide an aspirational right-sized alternative in which to age and live well with care available if required and consequently release aspirational four-bedroom homes with gardens for growing families.

Creating new alternatives

They in turn release smaller properties for younger people trying to get onto the housing ladder and so it goes on down the chain….we know the theory.

Creating new alternatives could encourage older people to step off the top rung of that ladder. It may slow house price rises; could make property more affordable for younger home-owners and benefit the generation that is currently being supercharged onto the housing ladder with the ‘Help to Buy’ initiative.

I was interested to hear the recent pre-amble to the Budget – hailing it as a ‘housing budget’ to help solve one of the nation’s biggest challenges. Could this be a new beginning? Would there be any incentives to encourage those operating in the retirement housing sector to provide viable and aspirational alternatives to ‘staying put’ in the big old family home?

Those hopes were left unmet by Mr Hammond. I’m not surprised – perhaps my nay-sayer cynicism has come to see the five-yearly – or shorter, given the precarious nature of fickle government majorities – hunt for the floating vote as king over the generational car crash of our ageing demographic. But we cannot leave ageing up there with climate change as somebody else’s problem.

We have to find another way to provide for our ageing population that is the heaviest user of the healthcare system – a system that is buckling under the strain.

Successive governments have seen the solution as being to drive efficiency or throw more money at the problem – we’ve been doing that for years. They say that the first sign of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. We need to change the model.

Retirement villages making a difference

One solution to the housing problem is not just about focusing on homes for first time buyers; another way lies in supporting the ever-growing over 55s market.

The International Longevity Centre has reported on the benefits to residents in specialist retirement housing with care options.

There has been significant increases (172%) in ‘bed blocking’ with independent living elderly patients waiting for care packages to be made available in their own homes, thus increasing pressure on the healthcare system. Residents in retirement housing with care options present an alternative solution.

A report by Demos and commissioned by the Homebuilders Federation suggested that government and local authorities have failed to recognise the housing needs of older people in local plans and the planning charges regime renders retirement developments inherently uncompetitive against general needs housing and retail developments. No wonder the pace of change is slow.

Retirement Villages is one of a number of operators building and managing communities that make a difference to our residents and we will continue to do so with or without government recognising the wider values to society these communities bring to the local healthcare economy; to the availability of family housing and to the quality of our residents’ lives. It’s a small step but it is providing an alternative solution.