A think-piece published this week by Hanover Housing and Demos asks a long-debated question: are age-specific housing developments a good thing, or do they foster isolation and discrimination?
The report explores the question using answers from 34 in-depth interviews with sector experts and people in “mainstream” housing, co-housing, home-sharing and retirement communities. It concludes that older people think they are at risk of social isolation if they stay in their own home as the age, but fear ‘ghettoization’ if they move into retirement or age-specific housing schemes.
- Many interviewees who lived in community said their social life was based on involvement in their local community, not centring on their own home
- Those living in co-housing schemes said their housing helped them build multi-generational relationships and new family-like social support, particular when living far from their own family
- Those interviewed who lived in out-of-torn retirement communities had “less varied” social lives and often relied on pre-arranged activities taking place in communal areas of a housing complex
- But residents in age-specific retirement communities reported feeling safer and less isolated than they did when they lived in their own home/in the community
- Co-housing not well-understood in Britain, and individuals have to be able to afford own property to benefit properly from it
- Home-sharing is viewed as “quite risky” by many and requires a lot of work to get good matches and appropriate marketing
- The housing market is not responding to need for housing models that support different kinds of community
- Need to be careful to balance need for better support with age-segregation
What needs to change?
The think-piece calls on housing associations, the Department for Communities and Local Government and house builders to explore different models – like homeshare and co-housing – to ensure that we can age in communities that meet our social support needs.
Loneliness in older age is a very complex issue that requires action from all services and bodies. Ensuring that the housing sector, and relevant statutory and charity groups, is aware of the social needs of our population in older age is one crucial step. The next is to work alongside the local public health, health and social care teams to ensure there is an overarching strategy and plan.
The newly-established health and wellbeing boards (local forums for senior health and care leaders) are in a natural position to lead these different sectors on the issue of loneliness in older age.
To find out more about health and wellbeing boards, and how to get your local board to act, visit our Loneliness Harms Health webpage: www.campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk/campaigns/loneliness-harms-health/
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Our model home in Bracebridge, ON was a perfect example of clustering together, sharing resources and expenses. The seniors who pioneered this concept in Muskoka changed once they were together. They were grumpy and unhappy living alone and when they purchased the first model home together they changed over the 31/2 years they lived there. We were amazed with the changes – they had big smiles most days, they went out together 4-5 times a week. They enjoyed living again.
Our company managed the house and managed and organized the staffing but, the co-owners were the decision makers for the home. They rarely fought amongst themselves, they really appreciated their private space and the beauty of the home. They loved being the decision makers in the home and they never felt like they were not in control – the bigger problems we faced were challenges from their family. (i.e. Children wanted mom to do something or buy something they didn’t want. Children wanting financial control, their own health diminishing and feeling frustrated with themselves etc…)
In relation to health the seniors paid for their health care, we believe they were stronger together as a group. They complained less and relied on each other for opinions, thoughts and ideas. The ladies in the house helped my dad with his daily exercises to improve his mobility. It was so of funny to watch. One would record and one would count to be sure he didn’t cheat.
We have a purpose-built shared home in Brechin, ON and are working on 5-6 other projects in the province. It works and saves money and most important – we can sell his interest in the home after he passes. Renting is wealth diminishing. Maintaining the equity position in real estate ensured they have something to sell in the end if they need the money for LT care. Email me for more information if you want. I was an overwhelmed caregiver, frustrated and unhappy realizing my relationship with both my dad and my siblings was changing. After dad lived in the home for 3 1/2 years and i became the daughter again and both he and i were much happier. So it worked for everyone.
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