Rebekah Luff and Fiona Templeton, Senior Research Analyst and Junior Research Analyst, the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)
When older adults are considering potential housing options for their future, where is a good place for them to start finding information? If family members have concerns about a loved one who is living alone and becoming increasingly isolated, where can they find out about housing options which may provide more of a sense of community?
As part of the Commission on the Role of Housing in the Future of Care and Support SCIE has been holding online workshops and one-to-one conversations with older adults, people with experience of using services, carers, social workers and social care managers. We asked them what people need to help them make the right housing decision for them. We found that information can be hard to source and difficult to make sense of. One told us: “We get tossed into a maelstrom at an age where very many cannot cope with it.”
We have found there are significant gaps in most people’s awareness of the range of accommodation. Care homes tend to have high recognition, but it is much lower for other settings. This is supported by the Commission’s population survey conducted with YouGov, which found while 98% of over 65s were aware of care homes, and 91% of retirement villages, only 66% were aware of extra care and 40% of Shared Lives. A social worker told us that “Families may ‘bypass’ extra care and other options and go straight to care homes as they don’t know about other options, or because care homes are the easiest to place in.”
Awareness does not necessarily translate into knowledge about a setting however, and this is made more complicated by the vast range of labels, names and variations in housing provision. There’s assisted living, retirement villages, extra care, sheltered housing and retirement flats. There are many other labels, which can mean the same or similar things. It’s suggested: “When looking into provision for older people the lack of consistency, clarity and coherence was absolutely terrifying.”
Older people and families have told us they want to know what options are available locally and to be able to compare between them. Some areas do not currently offer many options, so local information is essential, but so is an understanding of what could be available further afield. There is very strong feeling that information must extend beyond websites which can be inaccessible to too many people and hard to ‘pick up and put down and return to’.
Costs have been particularly hard to compare, particularly for some settings, such as extra care, which may have leasehold / rent costs, service charge, additional care costs and an exit / event charge. People do not know if they would be paying a fair price and some found that social services and other avenues of advice were reluctant to discuss finances.
People currently living in retirement communities or housing are often assumed to have access to information and advice should their situation change and they need to move, but they have told us that this is often not the case.
What kind of information would people like to see?
- For people that can use the internet, having local information in one place that allows searches across more housing types, care need and availability
- A knowledgeable person to have a proper conversation with, either a peer who has life experience of navigating the system or a professional. This person should be familiar with the range of options, costs / financial requirements and, most importantly, listen
- Information or a conversation that addresses financial concerns and where you can ask questions
- More open days across settings. Care home Open Days are seen as really positive as there is a big difference in ‘reading about’ and seeing housing. More of this type of activity for other housing types could be helpful, including being able to talk to people who live there.
- A more simple way of comparing between and across settings. This could be a standardised ‘key facts’ type of document including accommodation, care and support available, communal living/activities, pets being allowed and a breakdown of costs / charges
- Information should be clear but not patronising. Information services and products should be designed with older adults.