Planning for aged care support in later life
I recently read the Which? report Beyond social care: keeping later life positive which looks at consumer attitudes to adult social care, and the latest Lancet Public Health study which shows that the number of elderly needing round-the-clock care is set to double by 2035 in England. These made for a really interesting read as they showcase some of the challenges of planning for later life.
The Which? report highlights a key truth: people don’t want to think about older age. There are many reasons behind this inertia and unfortunately there’s no silver bullet to change consumer behaviour.
However, this isn’t to say that the aged care sector and policy-makers shouldn’t be doing more. It’s our responsibility to encourage people to think about the later stages of their lives and take proactive steps so they’re able to choose how they live in their later life. This is all the more important as The Lancet’s study predicts an increase in the number of people living into old age with multiple long-term conditions, including dementia. The Lancet research suggests that a majority of older adults (80%) will be in need of substantial care in 2035. The research also highlights that older spouse carers are increasingly likely to be living with disabilities themselves, resulting in mutual care relationships. This has big implications for all of us involved in aged care and is reflective of the changes in care needs that we are already seeing in our care homes and villages.
While it is understandable that many people don’t like to think about the care needs they may have in older age, this makes it all the more important for those of us in the aged care sector to heed the advice in the Which? report about framing planning for later life in a more positive manner. I couldn’t agree more with Which?’s advice. It’s so beneficial to think about how we want to live our last years, and it helps make sure we’re able to keep the independent lifestyle we want for as long as possible.
There are many small steps people can take to help them to live independently for longer. These include adapting the home environment, getting some external help for household tasks and chores, adapting a healthier diet and incorporating some exercise in their routine. Perhaps most importantly, it’s really beneficial to have a supportive network of people around.
The Which? report also recommends downsizing or moving home, ensuring older people live in environments which are tailored to their needs. Interestingly the stats show that people are aware of the impact that housing can have on their wellbeing when they get older. The research found that 61% of over 65s said they’d be happy to move homes if their current one didn’t meet their care needs in later life. What’s more just under half said that they’d be willing to move into sheltered housing or a retirement village if their health and mobility deteriorated.
However the report also shows that it’s not easy for older people who want to move to find suitable properties, either to buy or to rent. In fact the evidence suggests that there isn’t enough accessible housing for older people in either the private or social sector.
This is where I think housing with care available can offer some of the answers to the issues highlighted in the Which? report. It’s a growing sector in the UK with the ability to innovate and provide the best tailored accommodation and care.
At Bupa, our Richmond Villages are designed to support people throughout their later years, providing a mix of independent living, assisted living suites and care home spaces all on one site. This negates the need for a complete upheaval, should someone’s care needs change, and helps give people the reassurance that they can grow old in the surrounding that they’ve personally chosen.
From the colleagues and carers working at our villages, through to the friends and residents that live there, our communities allow people to enjoy an independent lifestyle within a supportive, caring community.
As a leader in the aged care sector, we support efforts to improve standards and transparency across the sector and look forward to reviewing the Government’s upcoming Green Paper. I hope that this will consider housing with care as one of the key levers which will help people think about the later stages of their lives in a more positive manner and help services adapt to the unprecedented needs of an increasing older population with complex care needs. In the meantime though, there’s nothing to stop care providers from taking proactive steps themselves.