A new report from the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) has found that residential housing with flexible care provision such as extra care facilities or retirement villages can have a major impact in promoting residents’ quality of life and reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
The report, funded by Audley Retirement and Bupa, surveyed residents of retirement villages on quality of life and compared the results of residents of retirement villages to those living within the community.
Residents living within a retirement village also reported a strong sense of control over their daily lives with greater independence and greater choice in planning for later life than would otherwise be available. The research also shows that the communal environment has the potential to reduce social isolation, particularly for residents who move from more rural or remote homes, nearly 10% higher than those living in the community.
Control is a crucial component of quality of life measurement[i]. They also felt secure in their homes, with 97% of respondents agreeing that they felt safe where they lived. Both of these findings were assessed using recognised quality of life measures[ii].
The UK is faced with an ageing population which, the ILC-UK warns, is going to become increasingly difficult to support. It is projected that in 20 years’ time, the number of people aged 85 and over will be almost two and a half times larger than in 2010[iii]. As well as having an emotional impact, loneliness can also present physical health implications; research has shown that loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults[iv], and even present people with a 64% greater risk of dementia[v]. There are currently 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely[vi] which, if left to increase in line with the population, could create a large burden on the NHS.
George McNamara, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There are significant housing problems facing people with dementia, but there is scant attention given to this problem in housing policy. Much of the UK’s accommodation is poorly designed to meet the needs of people with dementia and this offers significant barriers when they move home. It is positive to hear that residential housing with flexible care provision can reduce feelings of social isolation and loneliness, something which is endemic among people with dementia – but there is little of this available when compared to the number of people with the condition.
“With an ageing population and increasing numbers of people with dementia, housing must be adapted, designed and built to meet their specific needs and improve quality of life.”
Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC-UK commented: “This research helps confirm that good housing is good for us. Communal living commonly found in extra care and retirement villages seems to positive impact on loneliness, with very few respondents to our research saying they felt a high degree of loneliness or isolation. New and innovative models for providing social care are crucial to address rising costs for care in an aging society. But we simply aren’t building enough aspirational housing for old age. Government must ensure that planning supports the development and promotion of alternative models of housing with care.”
Nick Sanderson, CEO of Audley Retirement Villages commented: “We have long known that retirement villages offering extra care have a positive impact on those living in them. No one wants to be in a care home, and very few should need to go down that route. The ILC report corroborates our belief that the quality of life in extra care accommodation far exceeds what is possible in a care home.
“Extra care housing offers people the opportunity to live in a community of like-minded individuals, whilst remaining in their own home and retaining their independence. We were particularly pleased to see the ILC report reveal that residents feel a greater sense of control, and importantly a sense of community. Living in the right accommodation, with flexible care give our owners the opportunity to live their lives as they choose, on their own terms.
“We are faced with a growing older population, and this generation are more ambitious and active than ever. It’s crucial that there is a better supply of good quality housing that meets their changing needs. Extra care is a seemingly simple concept, but government, business and society urgently needs to accelerate the provision of alternatives to current solutions; alternatives like extra care housing that can help give older people what they need and want, as well as help the NHS avoid a care crisis.”
Paddy Brice, managing director, of Richmond Care Villages, which is part of Bupa, said:
“The report reflects our knowledge that retirement villages are a great way for people to maintain their independence and enjoy an active social life, with the confidence that support is on hand if needed.
“Our villagers frequently tell us they wish they’d made the move earlier. We are currently building two new villages as part of Bupa’s investment in new products and services for older people. Care villages are clearly meeting a big demand for this style of living as the apartments are being snapped up before we have even finished building them.”
[i] See for example: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1648/1/qualityoflife.pdf
[ii] The Older People’s Quality of Life (OPQOL) questionnaire comprises 13 questions, which incorporate the views of older people with theoretical measures.
[iv] http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2015/07/24/loneliness-is-a-mind-killer-study-shows-link-with-rapid-cognitive-decline-in-older-adults/ Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 2015
[v] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/10/loneliness-dementia-link Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (Amstel) led by Dr Tjalling Jan Holwerda from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, 2012
[vi] http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/blog/policy-implications-of-loneliness/ Campaign to End Loneliness, 2015