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3 September 2021

How Perception Has Taken Centre Stage for Later Living

My Mother, 65 years old, is retired and lives alone in a 3-bed semi-detached house which she owns in an area she has lived all her life. Her house is damp, the roof is leaking, the render is shot, it suffers from subsidence and the plaster is cracked throughout.

It needs thousands spending on it – thousands she doesn’t have.

Rightly or wrongly, she sees her options as:

1) Stay put, do nothing

2) Downsize

3) Move to a later living setting

She has spent her life in the area, my family and I are close by. The stress and upset of moving are unbearable for her, and she is desperately against moving to a later living home as to her, it is seen as ‘giving up’. So, for the time being she stays put whilst we support her to review her options.

The Anxiety

For so many, staring down the barrel at options of ‘over 55’s apartments’, ‘extra care apartments’, ‘retirement villages’ and ‘care homes’ doesn’t send us rushing to book the removal van. Instead, the terminology causes people to see it as a step towards the end rather than an aspirational next step in enhancing their life.

I understand the perception that moving from a home with front and back gardens to an apartment with little or no private outdoor space may be scary, and Covid has only added to this anxiety, but this is not the reality of all settings. With landscaped gardens, private balconies, shared sun terraces, social events, spas, gyms, restaurants, cafes, hair and beauty salons, libraries, and concierge services - some later living homes are more like luxury apartments with the all the indulgence a hotel could provide. The flexible care and support available should be seen as a helpful addition rather the primary objective.

On Covid, a study undertaken by St Monica Trust investigated Retirement Village and Extra Care Housing in England: Operators’ experience during the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2021) and found that resident COVID-19 death rates were lower in comparison to those in similar age groups living in their own homes in the community.

During the past 18 months, many later living communities, through careful visitor and new owner checks, have been able to protect people whilst allowing them to continue village life, keeping social isolation at bay. A world apart from my mums and many others experience during this time.

The Potential

There has been a lot of work in recent years to engage with people to understand what it is they want from later living accommodation. We need to continue this work, celebrate it, and educate people on some of the incredible communities being created as well as the variety of options available in the sector. We may even choose to take leadership from other sector transformations.

The Student Residential sector went from lacklustre, poorly maintained properties with little to inspire upcoming students, to new modern properties with a choice of rooms, studios and apartments, bills included, and with social spaces and events that have in turn, revolutionised the sector.

In more recent years, the rental sector has undertaken a similar transformation offering modern apartments with gyms, terrace bars, cinemas, group entertainment and dining spaces, high speed internet, co-working/meeting room space and 24-hr concierge services.

One emerging model in the later living sector is intergenerational living. Here at AA Projects, we are working with New Care, Villafont Homes, Back to the Garden Nursery and McGoff Construction to deliver a mixed site in Lymm with a Care Home, later living apartments and a children’s nursery on the same site.

Assael’s Rightsizer model takes this a step further providing homes for older residents whilst offering training, work and homes to key workers and subsidised homes for younger people who are willing to offer company to older residents who live there too.

One of our other Clients, Housing 21, are focusing on co-housing in areas of high deprivation and significant BAME communities as well as undertaking research around LGBTQI residents and those receiving care to make certain that their needs are being met appropriately.

As the sector is transforming, we will continue to work with Care Clients who are forward thinking and put the needs of their current and future communities above all else.

As sector lead for Later Living at AA Projects I am proud to work in such a meaningful and emotive area where the opportunity to make a difference is real. I hope that through careful project and cost management, stakeholder engagement and with a bit of heart, I can play my small part in shaping the debate, changing the perception, and helping to inspire people, including my mother when the time is right for her, to move for a better and more engaging life.

I would love to hear and engage with your views on this topic or other topics facing the sector right now including what the future model looks like, how we overcome use class, planning and finance issues, the time taken from site purchase to PC, future affordability for a generation of renters not homeowners, and a general lack of supply Vs demand. Get in touch and engage with me at stephenjones@aaprojects.co.uk or on 07976 187 889.