Jane Ashcroft CBE is Chief Executive of Anchor Hanover, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care in later life.
The UK’s population is rapidly ageing. The health and social care needs of older people are more complex than just a few years ago and loneliness is a significant issue for many people in later life.
The challenges are financial as well as health-related. Though many older homeowners and former homeowners have benefited from rising property values, many older people have not experienced this. Poverty is rising amongst those in later life and state funding for services is increasingly stretched.
As England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care in later life, one of the starkest changes we see at Anchor Hanover is that people who in the past would have moved into care homes are remaining in our sheltered housing for longer. They are living alongside many people who are likely to be working in later life and our ageing society means there are also increasing numbers of residents with learning disabilities and mental health issues. The tightening of the eligibility criteria for state funding for care home residents is also a reason for people remaining in our housing for longer.
We’re acutely aware of the role suitable housing can play in supporting older people to stay independent for longer and reducing the strain on public services.
Research from Demos has shown that sheltered housing saves the NHS almost £500m per year despite the current undersupply. Additional Extra Care housing could help to significantly increase the saving to the health service through prevention, providing for care needs at home and improving health and wellbeing outcomes.
Extra Care provides a range of care and support coupled with the privacy and independence of being in your own flat with the reassurance and flexibility of essential on-site services such as care and catering. Residents are more likely to have dementia or a physical disability than those in mainstream retirement housing. Facilities, depending on the location, can also include communal lounges, restaurants/cafes, hairdressers, shops and in some cases, therapy rooms, a gym and spa.
We pride ourselves on taking a truly person-centred approach to care, which sees us innovate both locally and nationally to provide the best service possible to our residents.
Starting as a one-year pilot and now extended to 2021, a Wellbeing Development Manager was appointed in the London Borough of Hackney to head up a team working across five of our extra care schemes in the area.
The team oversees the Staying Strong programme. This is a partnership between Anchor Hanover, City & Hackney CCG and Hackney Council providing residents with regular “fitness MOTs”, increasing awareness of the importance of exercise, as well as encouraging participation in weekly exercise classes being held at the schemes. The Wellbeing Team also engages with residents identified as being at risk of falls and works with them to mitigate any risks.
We also place great emphasis on mental health through measures to tackle loneliness. Through access to the National Lottery Communities Fund, 12 of our Hackney estates have volunteer-led social hubs to help improve interaction between residents and reduce isolation.
Our Creating Communities scheme, in partnership with Mental Health Foundation and Mercers Charitable Foundation, is developing new, outdoor activities for residents to take part in together.
We also believe that education and engagement have crucial roles to play in shaping the future of such services. This approach is beginning to take shape on the ground. In Liverpool, the introduction of a Place Shaper role, a partnership with Liverpool City Council, at Anchor Hanover schemes, aims to build successful and progressive partnerships with statutory and third sector organisations.
By co-ordinating and generating services to meet the identified needs of older people in the city, the role will play a key part in linking a new Extra Care scheme at Middleton Court, Speke, with the surrounding neighbourhood.
Changing needs call for additional options and for services to continue to evolve. Anchor Hanover is doing this across the board. Residents have the option of rented, leasehold or shared ownership properties which provide care through a combination of the local authority, the scheme itself and a nominated care provider.
As older people’s needs change, so must we!