What are the retirement housing options for my parents?
Life is not a matter of one giant leap from independent living at home to taking up residence in a care home. The choices can be confusing though. We give you a starting point to explore what the options are for your parents and how to decide what they need at any point in their lives.
Adaptations around the house
Making a few changes around the home may be enough to help your parents stay in their own home. There are plenty of small adaptations such as handrails, or larger ones such as bathroom refits or stairlifts, that can make a home more accessible for the less mobile. If you’re thinking about buying expensive equipment, make sure it’s right for your parent’s needs and health. An occupational therapist can help to advise on the suitability of adaptations.
If you want to make changes around your parent’s house you may be able to get help or at least advice from your parent’s local authority or a similar organisation. Look for Home Services Agencies or Care and Repair organisations in the local area. Be aware that while these groups can help to find and manage jobs around the house such as fitting adaptations, they may charge their own fees and while they may give you names of tradespeople this may not in itself be a recommendation. Take a look at our article about mobility aids with tips about choosing suppliers.
Sometimes it’s not so much about challenges around the house as feeling isolated. Download our Loneliness Guide for ideas to help you and your parents overcome that issue. And while technology is no replacement for people, getting online can help, and we have advice on how to get started.
Useful technology can alert remote carers to any changes in behaviour for example. Take a look at our article on how to prevent wandering and falls.
Have someone move in with you
There’s a new movement to help people stay in their own homes by matching them with younger people who need a roof over their heads and will provide company and some support in return. Read our article on the up-and-coming homeshare schemes.
Moving in with family
How does the idea of your parent moving in strike you? A growing number of families are opting for multi-generational living. We’ve been talking to a number of families that have taken that route.
According to the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), 81% of 65-74 year olds in England own their own property and statistics show that older people want to remain as property owners. ARCO quotes a Demos report that found that 33% of over 60s would like to downsize if suitable retirement homes were available.
If the home has simply become too large then a move to a smaller house, flat or into specialist housing could be the answer. Take a look at our article on home ownership from Bridgefast, who focus on property-related services for the retired. There are a number of specialist downsizing experts who can help to find a new property or retirement home, organise removals and even help with the packing. Many are small, local businesses so search for an agency near your parent.
And if your parents feel the urge to fulfil the dream to move to the country, we have a few thoughts on that too.
The term “sheltered housing” has been around for a long time and it’s often thought of as a council-provided service. There are still funded facilities available for those of limited means, and you can find out more about social housing from your local authority or the local housing association that provides the accommodation.
You can also find sheltered housing (also known as close care schemes) in the private sector that can be bought, rented or leased (with a service charge). Sheltered housing usually involves a manager or warden living onsite or near site who can help to organise services for residents, and some sort of emergency alarm system.
You may find that sheltered housing in many cases is linked to or on the same site as a care home which can offer a solution for couples who have differing care needs but wish to remain together. For those with greater needs, there are other options, known variously as extra care, very close care and assisted living properties.
The Housing Learning and Improvement Network (LIN) have a directory of Department of Health funded Extra Care schemes as well as a comprehensive database of housing developments that offer care services compiled by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC). One Stop also has a directory of sheltered housing and care homes that will give you more idea of what’s available.
Retirement communities and apartments
There’s a huge overlap across sheltered housing, retirement communities and retirement apartments, with many offering much the same facilities.
Retirement communities also know as retirement villages are gaining ground as a popular approach to retirement living. They’re designed for people over 55 or 60 who are happy to live independently in their own home within a community.
Retirement villages can be a viable option for couples who wish to remain together where one or both partners have varied care needs. Equally, they offer older people who are living alone a sense of community.
The villages are likely to be an estate of bungalows, flats and/or houses with communal recreational facilities which your parent can buy, part-buy or rent. Care is usually available on site as and when residents need it and can be tailored to suit individual needs.
There are a number of organisations that specialise in building properties focused on retirees. Not-for-profit group Anchor Homes has a useful guide on choosing a retirement village. Find Me Good Care has more information about what a retirement village offers and provides some tips on choosing the right place for your parent.
It’s also worth looking at the ARCO website which offers more information about villages. The group is also spearheading a campaign to encourage government policies that will give older people “Help to Move” to more suitable and specialist retirement housing provision in the UK.
Retirement Homesearch and not-for-profit housing provider Anchor both offer customisable search options for retirement living and housing options. McCarthy and Stone are probably the best-known developers of what they call retirement apartments which are specially designed flats for older people. The company also talks about Assisted Living, where management are onsite and packages such as personal care and laundry are also available.
One factor that you do need to take into account when looking at retirement living is what some call the ‘hidden costs’. These are exit fees, sometime but not always buried in small print of a contract, that come into force when it’s time to sell the property. Also known as ‘event fees’ they are regularly calculated as a percentage of the property’s value, but deliver no real value, according to organisations such as Which? and Age UK, which has been calling for greater transparency around fees.
Residential homes and nursing homes
Also known as care homes, residential homes are suitable for those who want extra support that balances some privacy with community, but don’t need specialised nursing help. As you’d expect, nursing homes are care homes with onsite nursing staff and are suitable for those with additional needs. Many now have specialist skills in dementia care.
There are a growing number of online directories to help you choose a home, such as carehome.co.uk, Housingcare.org and the Good Care Guide. The NHS also has a directory that allows you to search for specific types of care by selecting various tabs. Read our tips on choosing a care home and what you should expect.
Where to start?
Should my parent stay at home or move to somewhere more convenient? A questionnaire created by the EAC can give you some good starting tips.
With an increasingly ageing population it’s going to become even more important to have suitable housing in place for older people. Sarah McKee, founder of the Evermore project, has shared her views of future retirement living.
The government continues to evolve its policy on housing for older people and is working with organisations such as FirstStop, Handypersons, the Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation (HAPPI), and the Housing LIN.
There are plenty of think tanks looking at how communities will have to adapt to an ageing population, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissions regular research into how housing for older people works now and should do in the future.
The Royal Institute of British Architects’ report talks about the possibility of mansion-style urban living, where “an international network of residences replaces home ownership, balancing privacy with sociability and liberating third-agers to explore the world”.
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