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Cork Independent

INDOpinion

More housing vital for older people

Thursday, 28th March, 2019 9:09am

In our experience, there needs to be choice in housing to allow older people to age in place.

This choice should be open to all older people in Ireland, not just those who qualify for social housing or who can afford to avail of more costly private options. This is why we are calling for a ‘spectrum of housing’ that not only takes into consideration the needs of older people from a health, community and social inclusion perspective, but also shows an awareness of the need for different price points.

ALONE values the importance of community-based supports, which are in place to enable the older person to overcome challenges and difficulties they encounter, as well as to access the benefits and resources that will enable them to remain living at home within their community.

ALONE estimate that at any one time 20 per cent of older people require some level of support intervention. We welcome the commitment from the HSE to roll out ALONE’s services nationally over the coming years, including befriending, coordination of supports, housing and technology.

This will be the beginnings of a network of support across the country. The need for community-based supports was validated by Minister for Older People, Jim Daly at the launch of the consultation report on home care Improving Home Care Services in Ireland: An Overview of the Findings of the Department of Health’s Public Consultation in June 2018. This has also been supported in the recommendations from the OPRAH (Older People Remaining at Home) study in 2017.

We have analysed the limited data available in Ireland in regard to housing need, and compared this with UK experience and research in the area. A detailed exploration of this data is available within our report.

Now is the time to begin the process of building communities for people to live in throughout their life-cycle and to support older people to age in place, preparing for the demographic change and addressing gaps in housing options.

There is scope for further development of models of dedicated housing for older people. Further planning and action needs to take place to ensure that housing for older people is located in areas of high demand and in locations close to people’s current homes.

This will ensure that people are not displaced from their communities and forced to move away from their families and social networks.

National planning policy should make sites available for local authorities and approved housing bodies to provide more social housing with supports for older people, and for private developers to provide affordable housing.

This needs to become an integral part of town planning in the context of age-friendly communities. An integrated housing approach to housing for older people will provide the following benefits:

a. Ensure that the National Positive Ageing Strategy’s aspirations are met.

b. Provide real choice in housing options for older people, with the appropriate supports incorporated nationwide.

c. Enable older people to remain in existing homes through a properly resourced and easy to navigate home adaptation system.

d. Enable minimum savings of €150m for every 10,000 one and two bed homes built for older people.

Benefits will include reducing the number of older people having to remain in acute hospital settings long after they are ready for discharge, due to lack of housing options available or long delays in housing adaptations and reducing the numbers of older people moving to costly nursing home provision due to lack of alternative housing with supports.

It is estimated that the cost to the Fair Deal scheme will increase by an additional €729m annually by 2031, as a result of demographic changes. Proper planning will enable older people to ‘rightsize’ through the availability of choice in housing options in their community, reducing the pressure on the private rented sector and reduce what will be an increasing pressure on Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme.

We hope that the report will assist policy makers at both central and local government level in planning for housing and the vital supports that older people require to remain living at home within their communities.

We believe that the delivery of these ambitious targets will depend on an innovative and collaborative approach between all stakeholders including the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government, Department of Health, local authorities, HSE and the approved housing body sector.

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