Lack of retirement housing options risks leaving elderly out in the cold

Professor at the Business School calls on government and private providers to address ‘woeful’ shortage in new report.

Retirement housing and care options must be reformed to ensure security, dignity, and health for older people in later life — a new report claims.

The new ‘Housing with Care Grey Paper’ makes clear that it is a ‘critical moment’ for the UK’s support for older people, as the government continues to consult on its ‘Planning for the future’ White Paper. It adds that Covid-19 has illuminated the urgent need to provide better support for older and more vulnerable people, with more than 32,000 care home residents having died since the start of the pandemic.

Les Mayhew, Professor of Statistics at the Business School (formerly Cass), and Head of Global Research at the International Longevity Centre UK, has contributed to the paper along with government MPs and Peers, and leaders from academia, finance, local politics, and housing.

The report — led by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) — recommends the introduction of a cross-government Housing with Care Task Force, better financial incentives for older people to ‘rightsize’ into the most suitable properties, and a sustainable funding formula for social care.

The housing with care sector combines independent living for older people with the provision of onsite care and support if needed. Additional policy actions for the Government, which will improve housing and care provision, include:

  • Greater clarity in the planning system to define different types of older people’s housing, including a new planning category for housing with care
  • Expanding the number of ‘lifetime homes’ fit for all ages
  • Securing a better deal for paid and unpaid care workers
  • A sustainable funding formula for social care should include a Universal Care Entitlement

Professor Mayhew cites a case involving his mother, who failed to qualify for a home care package under eligibility rules and later died following a series of falls. He believes there must be a change in policy to allow for the elderly to make better use of their assets while they are still alive so they can pay for additional care.

Les Mayhew, Professor of Statistics at the Business School (formerly Cass), and Head of Global Research at the International Longevity Centre UK, said:

“There is currently a woeful shortage of retirement housing for rent and purchase in the UK, restricting the choices and freedom of older people to live as they wish in their later years.

“The elderly must be able to make better use of housing wealth to pay for care. I have long advocated an insurance product that contributes towards the cost of home care, long term care of both in which the premium is not paid until after death or transfer into residential care. Also, cleverer financial products could make it easier and more affordable to downsize earlier in life into age-friendlier accommodation — which can have huge health benefits and extend lives.

“The private sector has a big role to play in tackling this under-supply, but the Government must also do much more, by reforming the planning system to make it easier to invest in retirement housing, and introducing better financial incentives for older people to ‘rightsize’.

“Taking these steps will allow us all to live much happier, healthier lives as we age.”

ARCO and the report signatories have written an open letter to the Prime Minister outlining the importance of reform. The full report — ‘Housing with Care Grey Paper’ — can be read on the ARCO website.

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