Today is National Care Home Day with the theme of celebration. The organisers want to highlight the good care homes that are doing great things. Is it a time of celebration or is it a time to (again!) question the future of housing for older people?

We don’t deny that care homes are run by people who really do care. The problem is they’re running out-dated institutions where nobody wants to live, and many of them are failing.  Families resent losing inheritance to these costly, grim places, and the Government has put the sector into the “too hard basket’’.

Older people are being ignored despite the fact they are the wealthiest consumer group in the country. Nobody is designing houses and services they really desire. Can you believe only 2% of available property for sale in Britain is for retirement?

We recently held an event with leaders in property, care, investment and Government. We heard that developers won’t build retirement property because they’re afraid of the impact on their brand and reputation, plus they’re making the most of the housing shortage anyway so don’t need to pursue the older age market.

But all is not lost. There is a positive movement happening internationally and much to learn from it.  There is clear demand for small, household community living from older people, and examples here in the UK as well as in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.  (Check out Design for Aging by our friend David Hughes at Pozzoni if you want to learn more).

The common themes are:

  1. small numbers of residents/family setting over institutions;
  2. residents dictate household rhythms;
  3. located in urban environments/part of community (inside and out);
  4. self-managed teams/universal worker to support;
  5. hospitality NOT care focus – active participation encouraged

Just like is happening overseas, we need lifestyle choices not care services because nobody wants to be warehoused in an institution and no-one wants to live in a care home. We need to stop throwing money at outdated models that are no longer fit for purpose.

This is not about rebranding residential care. Instead, it’s about making ageing positive, creating an aspirational vision of later life, and giving people housing choices that free them up to pursue a life with meaning and purpose.  It will help address some of our biggest challenges – isolation, ageism, AND stretched health and social care budgets.