Opportunity to Comment: Parliamentary Inquiry on Housing for Older People

The Communities and Local Government Committee is holding an inquiry on housing for older people. The Committee has set up a forum to hear directly from older people about their experiences of moving home in later life.  We would like to encourage as many people as possible to respond by the deadline of Monday 27th November.

Please lick on the link below for more information and to send in your comments (which can be anonymous).

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/housing-for-older-people-online-forum/

 

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Why I volunteer: our new Silverlinks volunteer Mark shares what motivates him

My name is Mark Hillary and I tried to retire last year when I turned 60. My wife said I had to keep busy so I did a Workers Education Association (WEA) course on Cathedral Architecture at the Mechanics Institute next door to Age UK Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

As I walked by their Bradbury House offices I noticed they had a Housing Options drop-in service on a Friday morning and thought I might be able to help.  As well as a professional interest in housing, I teach the Housing Degree for the Institute of Housing. I remembered that my mum had had an Age UK funeral plan and it was a great solace to her in her declining years.  These years were also greatly enhanced by getting her to move closer to me and her granddaughters. But it was complicated to organise the move. It was then that I realised that other people could do with a hand with housing – related issues.

I am fortunate, having a nice home and pensions but through a career in Local Government and Social Housing I have come across lots of people much less well off than me.  I was a Head of Service with Nottingham City Council and think I usually understand bureaucracies, but it gets harder as you get older and particularly when everything goes online.  I worked in London for 25 years and still run a small housing training & consultancy business and I am also really interested in quality management.

Mark at the information stand at a local community health hub

The reality is that since I tried to give up work I have just got busier and busier and in the last year I have been fortunate enough to go to the United Arab Emirates on a few occasions to assess the quality of housing in Dubai.   Remembering my mother’s struggle I feel I understand and really want to use my knowledge help older people.  I also really believe in mixing up the generations and, having worked with apprentices for 20 years, tried to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generations.

We recently did a “ward round” style drop in visit to Lings Bar hospital. I remember that my mum was in there after being discharged from the Queens Medical Centre here in Nottingham. The lack of suitable housing and care and the “bed blocking” issue are among the big quality issues I am really interested in. On the day we visited the wards it was so rewarding to just chat to people who may feel isolated and frightened being away from home and not knowing exactly what is going to happen.  My Mum had me to help her, but sometimes the standard of care fell short and it horrifies me that there are older, vulnerable people out there being ripped off on equity release schemes or simply neglected who just need a word of advice or someone they can just talk to about what is worrying them.

I believe keeping busy and active is vital as we get older and last summer I volunteered to trek across Iceland to raise money for Shelter.   Offering support and advice through Silverlinks and Housing Options at Age UK Nottingham and Nottinghamshire may not always be easy but believe me it’s much easier on the feet and back than climbing up glaciers and camping on the hard ground in the frozen north!

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New Silverlinks Guides: Planning Ahead for housing needs with a long term condition

Silverlinks has produced a set of new guides, aimed at older people with long term health conditions and their carers.

There are six guides covering respiratory, macular and heart disease, dementia, stroke and arthritis; and one general guide for people with long term conditions.

Each guide advises on what people can do to their home to make living with these conditions more manageable. They also describe the range of alternative housing options and offers suggestions about where to find more detailed information, advice and help.

You can access the guides on our “Information for Older People” page .

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Integration in Action: new report from Silverlinks Nottinghamshire

A new report published by Care & Repair England highlights the impact of housing and health, with focus on how the Silverlinks programme in Nottinghamshire (delivered by Age UK Nottingham & Nottinghamshire) is helping older people being discharged from hospital.

The report demonstrates how an integrated approach to health and housing can lead to outcomes such as reduced risk of re-admission, improved wellbeing and reduced risk of premature admission into residential care.

It also looks at how Silverlinks in Nottinghamshire is contributing to NHS England’s  Engagement Programme which highlights the importance of housing in relation to health – in particular how suitable housing can prevent people being admitted to hospital, be discharged from hospital, and remain living independently in the community.

Click here to download 

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Silverlinks “Options for Housing & Care in Later Life” event in Hackney

Thursday saw the first of the Silverlinks activities in Hackney, London.  Silverlinks in Hackney and the City of London is being delivered by MRS Independent Living.

MRS held an event in a local community centre, part of a housing area called Banister House in Homerton.  The event, “Options for Housing and Care in Later Life” was to provide older people in the area with information & advice, and to provide details of who to contact if they had any issues with their housing and care.

Terry Bednall, who organised and facilitated the event, arranged a number of service providers to do short talks.    These covered Housing Options – types of housing, adaptations and repairs for homeowners and tenants;  care – covering care at home, blue badges, and getting out and about – details on services such as a local Mind group, befriending services and a novel bicycle taxi that can help older people get around in the area.

The event was very well attended with 70 people coming along to find out more  – it was standing room only as people continued to arrive throughout the morning.  There were many interesting questions brought up by those there – including accessing services for repairs when someone is a homeowner of a flat within a leasehold block; access top blue badges; and also some comments about adaptations and repairs that people had already had.

 

A very successful event and we are looking forward to the next one!

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Sheltered Housing: older people’s perceptions of choice and independence are key

Silverlinks in Rochdale is delivered by HMR Circle, a well-established organisation for older people.   Circle were approached by RBH (Rochdale Borough Housing) to see if any Silverlinks volunteers could help them with some research into older people’s views of sheltered housing.   RBH manages several independent living schemes (also known as sheltered housing) for people over the age of 55 and have recently experienced a decline in demand. RBH wanted to better understand the level of awareness and appeal of these properties to older people, and gain insight into what appeals and what doesn’t appeal.

Kim Ho, who delivers the Silverlinks project, gathered together several volunteers to form discussion groups.  The people were grouped by those that rejected the idea of moving to an independent living scheme and those who were open to the idea, and were split by age to see if any of these factors made a difference to a person’s perception of the schemes.

Findings

Overall, awareness of the availability of schemes seemed to be low, and a move to this type of housing is rarely seen as a “choice”.  Those that were “younger old” (55 – 64) would be more likely to consider independent living schemes if they had existing health issues; 65 – 74 year olds viewed a move as a “crisis move” and those over 75 were least likely to be open to the idea, preferring to meet their current needs at home.

The results of the discussions also found that there is a narrow view of who these type of schemes are for – people viewed them as being primarily for over 75s, mainly women, with mobility of care needs and no interest in outdoors.

Fundamental “must haves” were also identified by the groups.  Regardless of where you live, people felt that these fundamental choices were important:

  • Choice whether to be sociable or not
  • Choice to come and go as you please
  • Choice how to decorate your home
  • How much help & support you have with care providers
  • Whether you cook for yourself or not
  • Whether you wash, dry and iron your own clothes

Choice and independence is cherished, and people value total control over their lives, regardless of age.    Choice along with adaptations, helpful neighbours, family close by and an active social life were all considered key to create a positive lifestyle. The consultation also covered the design and atmosphere of the schemes.   People are looking for well-proportioned living space, and an engaging atmosphere  with a number of services (such as ability to keep a pet, wifi, café, regular trips out offered, additional storage, gardens).

If a scheme can offer all of these things, what would cause people to be wary of moving?

The focus groups identified that loss of independence is a fear for many people.  People fear becoming dependent on the scheme, they fear that living with only older people can be ageing, they may lose motivation to go out – not having their own front door is a factor in feeling independent, and they feel they may have a reduced choice of who they socialise with.

So what makes the ultimate scheme?  The focus group discussion came up with a list of what would make their ultimate housing scheme:

  • High quality décor throughout
  • High spec kitchens and bathrooms
  • Large living space
  • Big windows and lots of light
  • 24 hour warden service
  • Onsite café facility
  • Full programme of activities

Added security also adds to the appeal of a property, and those with additional mobility needs would also look for wider doorways, wetroom and wheelchair adapted kitchens.

Circle was able to provide several recommendations to RBH following the focus groups.   These included providing a choice of both formal and informal social activities at their schemes – a full activity programme including regular trips out; keeping independence and choice should be at the forefront of any schemes; consider larger flats and additional storage which would appeal to more people; promote use of guest accommodation and communal areas for entertaining guests which appeal to those that have family and friends visiting.

This was a really interesting piece of work, and RBH have already made several changes as a result of the recommendations – and since doing so have seen demand for their properties increase.     The key theme coming out of the work has really been that no matter where people live, they value the ability to live independently, with the choice to live as they wish.   Perception of sheltered housing schemes is sometimes that of being on par with a residential home, and promoting independent living, own front doors and a choice of social activities could help to change this view.

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Silverlinks Nottingham: Homelessness can affect anyone

Here is a blog from our Silverlinks project in Nottingham.

Little did Mary Clark, Nottingham Silverlinks co-ordinator at Age UK Notts., know what a journey she would be embarking on with client Cyril when she first met him at her weekly city centre Housing and Care Options drop in service.

Shadowed by a volunteer being newly inducted to the service, Mary took a moving history from Cyril, a charismatic, articulate 82-year-old ex-miner who had been caring for his partner of many years, who had recently been diagnosed with dementia.

Insurmountable wider family issues beyond Cyril’s control quickly culminated in him having to leave the person he loved and, crucially, his home, which was legally owned exclusively by his partner.

After a brief stay at a friend’s house Cyril found himself un-intentionally homeless and, proud above everything, preferring to sleep in his car than engage with local authority homelessness services.

Trust gained, Cyril allowed Mary then others to help him. He now lives in a beautiful secure centrally located alms house flat at the local John and Eliza Jelley Homes for older persons. It is a beautifully maintained, period site close to family, friends and amenities. He often says he will never forget the help he was given and the people who gave it when he needed it most.

The pictures here are of the behind-the-scenes preparations by drp production staff for a video Cyril kindly made in partnership with Age UK Notts., Silverlinks and the Nationwide Building Society as part of their staff training programme of corporate responsibility for 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The subject of Nationwide’s training programme is the raising of awareness that homelessness can affect anyone from any walk of life and age group, even, poignantly, our oldest citizens.

Mary was so glad to later be able to share with Cyril a message she got from Kat, Social Investment Manager at Nationwide.

“Thanks again for the opportunity to film with Cyril – his story has had a profound impact on many hundreds if not thousands of employees over the last weeks and will really help us galvanise our people to make a difference J

Here is the video itself, which simply says it all.

Best wishes from Mary and all at Age UK Notts. / Silverlinks Nottingham.

Cyril and Mary, in Cyril’s new home

 

 

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Silverlinks update: Rochdale

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Circle (HMR Circle) began delivering a Silverlinks project in December 2016.  HMR Circle is a membership organisation for older people in the area providing social activities as well as practical support for older people via a network of Helpers.

Since December, HMR Circle have given information about housing & care to over 600 people, have supported 24 individuals with making decisions about their housing & care, and have provided information via “Pass it On” talks to  50 people.  A great start to the project in the area with lots more to come!

Here are two examples of people that have been supported.

Mrs S

Mrs S lived in the family home, but as it was on a hill she had trouble going out shopping. HMR Circle gave her some information via Silverlinks about the different housing available so she could begin thinking about whether to stay put or move.    She decided that the time was right for her to move, so she put her house on the market and and now lives on her own now at Arnold Bagnall Court, an Independent Living Scheme.

She is very happy now because she can access the buses and has the local amenities within walking distance. This has been a very good move for her. Mrs S has also been able to show other people who have come into contact with Silverlinks through HMR Circle, by showing them round her new flat and the scheme she lives in.

HMR Circle have since supported her with learning how to use ‘Facetime’ so she can keep in touch with her son who lives abroad.

Mr D

Mr D, who lives on his own in his own home was very poorly over Christmas.  He had become depressed and lonely because he could not get out. He has lived in his house for 11 years yet hardly knows any of his neighbours.  He is not in the best of health and has trouble sleeping.  He had been sleeping on a reclining chair because he has difficulty getting out of bed.

Mr D approached HMR Circle for some advice on what might be the best option for him in terms of his housing.  Mr D was taken to visit Mrs S in her new home in Arnold Bagnall Court, who showed him around her flat and chatted about living in an Independent Living Scheme so he could see if this type of housing was something he might consider.

This had a positive outcome because he now knew that he would have to considerably downsize in order to move to a similar property and that this was not an option for him at the moment. HMR Circle suggested that small adaptations and some help in the home would make a world of difference for him.   He has now engaged a cleaning contractor to do his general house cleaning and ironing and has ordered an adjustamatic bed to enable him to sleep in a bed  rather than his chair.

 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Ian

Our Silverlinks volunteers support older people who are facing decisions about their housing and care.  Many of our volunteers have had first hand experience of facing decisions about moving home in later life, having adaptations or supporting a loved one through this process.    With this experience they are able to listen to other older people and understand their situation.

Silverlinks volunteer Ian

 

Today we hear from Ian, a volunteer in Cornwall.  He tells us about his experience in moving in later life and some of the difficulties he faced, and why he wants to help other people in similar situations.   Many thanks to Ian for sharing this  – please click the link to read Ian’s Story 

 

 

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Older Old People – Housing, Health & Care: Some reflections on the findings of the Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study

The Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study (CC75C) has been taking place for over 30 years and is one of the largest and longest-running longitudinal observational studies of ageing into older age.

It was started in 1985 from a survey of over 2,600 men and women aged 75 and above. Intensive assessments were carried out and every few years follow up surveys, interviews and tests were carried out with sample groups.

Several topics were looked at including use of health and social services, socio-demographics and social contact, depression, the “older old” approaching the end of life, cognitive decline and dementia, and falls and functional ability.

The focus in the latter part of the study shifted to quality of life issues of “older old” people near the end of life.  Findings from this area of research were recently presented and focussed on three specific topic areas: “moving in very old age”, “experiences of formal and informal care in older old age”, and “end of life care issues – attitudes and preferences of very old people”.

The Silverlinks initiative focusses on people’s choices about housing & care in later life, so the findings on moving in very old age (aged 95 and over) are of particular relevance.

59% of participants in this sample group moved, many into care homes (76% of those that moved) and almost all were reactive moves as a result of a crisis such as hospitalisation (e.g. as a result of a fall), increased cognitive impairment or following a bereavement.  Only two people made a pro-active move.

One of the findings/reflections given by the study that stood out to me was that: “older people experienced regret and loss when they did not feel they owned the decision to move”.

This is very pertinent and conveys the importance of thinking ahead and the availability of I&A around housing options.   Although some decisions to move have to be made on medical grounds, for example if a is person experiencing severe cognitive decline, the question arises  – had these people been able to plan ahead for their future housing & care needs, would they be experiencing these feelings of regret? Is a decision made at a time of crisis – and perhaps by another person – always the best decision for the older person?

The study also found that those that moved into more familiar surroundings, whether a proactive or reactive move, were happier and experienced reduced feelings of isolation – for example if they moved to a care home where they had friends or knew someone that worked there.  This again suggests that being able to plan ahead and choose a particular residential setting (which is not always possible or practical) where a person has connections to the place or people may have a positive effect on wellbeing.  The study found that day care centres and schemes provide an important stepping stone allowing older people to build connections in their locality, potentially making a move to a residential setting easier. This highlights an issue around local availability and choice.

People that did not know anyone within their setting more frequently reported feelings of loneliness.   One lady who moved into a residential care home, miles from her home but close to her family, reported increased loneliness after moving.  Although she had proactively decided to move, she found that the unfamiliar surroundings and people and not being able to visit friends had a greater impact than she anticipated.

One of the other key findings and reflections on the study was that “older people need support to make housing decisions prior to crisis”.  This is exactly what the work carried out by Silverlinks is aiming to address through working with groups of older people and through our local projects.

 

Interestingly, although not surprisingly, all of those that moved were single households (single, widowed or divorced) and overwhelmingly female with only one of the group being male.  This highlights the need for housing options information & advice to be spread to as many people as possible in an accessible way.  Knowing where to go for information & advice about housing options is a key factor in reaching the right decision.  The Silverlinks “Pass it On” talks aim to do this by reaching those older people that are perhaps more active (e.g. those that attend community or church groups) who then pass on information to their neighbours, friends and family who may be more isolated and need support in finding information about housing and care.  The Silverlinks peer support model also becomes particularly important in allowing older people – perhaps in particular those that are single or may not have relatives – to talk through their options enabling them to reach the decision that is right for them.

A useful addition to the Cambridge study from a Silverlinks point of view would be a follow up with those people that chose not to move, to explore why they made this decision and what the impact of this has been.  It would also be interesting to see if any of these people had adaptations or moderations to their home to help them with daily living, and the difference this had made to their lives.

The study was focused on people aged 95 and over – it would be useful to see some findings from younger participants or those who moved at an earlier stage – did they experience the same in terms of decision making, were they able to plan ahead, how many of them proactively moved and how did they come to this decision?  Do they feel it was the right decision for them?

This is just part of a huge study into ageing, in which many topics are addressed.  For Silverlinks, the observations around moving in old age are pertinent as they provide further evidence that more support, advice and information is needed for older people who are facing decisions about housing and care, and that a lack of ownership of a decision can cause feelings of regret, loss and increased isolation.

Further information on the study can be found at http://www.cc75c.group.cam.ac.uk/.

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