Around the Home
Should I stay or go? Housing options for you.
Housing is one of the most important priorities for older people.
Indeed, the government’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People called it one of ‘three crucial legs on the same stool’, along with health and care. It’s easy to get the impression that there are only two housing options open to you as you get older: staying at home until you are unable to manage, and then going into residential care. In fact, these are just two ends of the spectrum: there are many possibilities in between, depending on your circumstances and the kind of arrangement you feel would suit you best.
No place like home
Staying at home is still many people’s first choice as they get older, and in most cases is the best option, once any support that’s needed is in place. Typical worries are feeling safe and secure; keeping the home and garden maintained; calling for help in an emergency and needing assistance with shopping, getting about and personal care.
Depending on the type of help you need, it may be a question of calling on a range of different sources of support, from family, friends and neighbours to voluntary organisations, private companies such as meals delivery services, or the local authority. An assessment from an occupational therapist can help you identify areas of daily living where it would help to adapt your home or change the way you do things.
If you don’t need or want to leave your home to your heirs, you could consider the Age UK Gifted Housing scheme. In return for you donating your property to the charity, it will take over repairs and maintenance, keep in touch with you, and pay some of the bills for as long as you live.
If you would like company as well as help, you could try a novel arrangement such as a home share, in which you agree to let out a spare room for little or no rent, in exchange for a set number of hours a week of help or care around the house. To find out if there is a home share programme near you, visit the Homeshare International website, which offers a searchable directory.
To buy or not to buy?
If you do decide to move, the next question is ‘where to?’. Downsizing can have many benefits, not least in that it could release some valuable cash from your property and reduce your everyday costs. Buying another property of your own is not your only option however, especially if you’re not sure that you want to commit to a ‘forever home’.
You could think about renting in the private sector if finances permit, or from your local authority or a housing association if you are eligible. In some areas you can rent sheltered housing, although there are likely to be high demand for this kind of property. You might also find that local charities or benevolent societies offer rented housing for older people who meet certain criteria.
Abbeyfield is a national charity that houses 7,000 older tenants in single properties, shared houses and care homes, with the emphasis on community and fair prices.
What about a retirement village?
Moving into a purpose-built retirement property, whether rented or purchased, is an increasingly popular option for many people who want to downsize and retain some independence, with the added bonus of a safety net of services and support.
It was this type of freedom that attracted Mary Moore to the block of retirement flats where she now lives in Folkestone, Kent. Unable to manage her house, she still wanted to live independently but needed reassurance that helps was at hand if she needed it.
‘She has her own kitchen and bathroom facilities, so she can do what she wants when she wants,’ explains Mary’s grandson Dennis. ‘There are also lots of social activities and meals organised by the centre, which is based downstairs. If anything does happen to her, she only has to pull a cord and someone will be there to help her instantly. It’s not only reassuring to her, but to us as well – particularly as her nearest relative lives an hour’s drive away.’
‘Taking a proactive decision can help reduce many of the risks older people face at home’ says Nick Sanderson, chief executive of Audley Retirement Villages. ‘A recent survey by the International Longevity Centre found that moving to more appropriate accommodation it can halve the risk of falls and hospitalisation.’
The concept of retirement villages is well-established in America, Australia and New Zealand, and some UK providers even offer residents the opportunity to ‘house-swap’ with overseas partners.
‘I used to provide more traditional residential care, and was beginning to see large numbers of older people being committed into a care setting when they just didn’t need it,’ says Nick Sanderson.
‘We began by building houses next to care homes, but this has morphed into what we do now, which is retirement villages. Everyone lives in their own home, which they can buy or rent, but they benefit from care staff who are on call 24 hours a day.’
If you need further help and advice on adapting your own home for your personal needs and the best products to buy get in touch today.