Extra Care: a necessity for our older population

We know people are living longer and in 2014 the average age of the UK population exceeded 40 for the first time. Since then, trends reflecting a steadily increasing ageing population have gathered pace and it is clear that our national demographic, and ultimately the average profile of a homeowner, has changed irreversibly.

In mid-2019, there were 12.4m adults aged 65 and over in the UK, equating to 18.5% (ONS, 2020) of the population. This figure is growing rapidly with the number of those aged 65 and over growing faster than those under 65 years old, and it is predicted that by 2028 there will be a 4% growth in the number of over 65s (ONS, 2018) falling into that age category.

However, the fastest population growth is predicted in the over 85s age group and it is predicted that by 2041, this age group will double from 1.6m to 3.2m people (ONS, 2018).

So, the increased demand for specialist housing for older people is there. For years, the construction industry has been aware of disparity between the increased need and availability of homes specifically for older people, always catching up to the notable growth in demand.

Although there are several schemes on the ground or in the pipeline that actively consider the needs of older people, more needs to be done especially as since the onset of the pandemic, existing health and social inequalities have become ever more apparent.

Pre-Covid, The Housing Learning & Improvement Network (HLIN) projected that there was a shortfall of 61,000 Extra Care homes in England alone.

This doesn’t even account for the predicted shortfall after the effects of the pandemic have truly been assessed. Many older people have found themselves safe at home but extremely lonely without company over the past 12 months. They are reassessing their housing options.

With HLIN reporting better health, social, emotional and mental outcomes for residents of Extra Care schemes, it has never been more important to keep building the homes people genuinely need and help them have a better quality of life.

How do we ensure the correct homes are available to the people who need them the most?

Torus has been working to readdress the imbalance of availability of homes built specifically with the needs of an older person in mind and to date we have spent over £171m building independent, supported, specialist and Extra Care schemes, creating 648 homes.

These schemes support the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of our residents and offer a complete solution for older homeowners.

Our Extra Care schemes are a real-world example of the Torus Group’s operating model with homes being developed by Torus Developments and managed by repairs and maintenance specialist, HMS. Homes are then sold via affordable means such as Shared Ownership, by Torus Homes, or rented by the Landlord arm of the Group. Finally, onsite support is provided to residents via the Torus Support Network who plans and provides care to help with the physical needs of residents and Torus Foundation who offers activities to boost their wellbeing.

This model has proven extremely successful in bolstering the welfare of residents and providing them with the complete support they need to live independently, at home, for as long as possible. This reduces pressure on both primary and secondary healthcare services, resulting in a 38% decrease in an individual’s annual NHS costs (Kings Fund and Aston University, 2016).

A supporting study by Anchor Hanover & Sonnet in 2019 also found that specialist housing meant shorter hospital stays as patients are able to be released earlier as their homes are already fit-for-purpose and provide suitable care.

So, how do we ensure our homes meet the needs of an ageing population and are futureproofed for growing demand?

Housing products need to continuously evolve to cater for the needs of residents by refining the design and specification, incorporating the latest technology and ensuring we cater for the changing demographic.

By creating more of the homes needed by older generations, residents are happier and healthier, pressure on health and social care is reduced and family homes become available for those who need them.

We have a number of exciting schemes in the pipeline: Extra Care options at Melwood in Liverpool and Rock Ferry on the Wirral; over 55s schemes at Allerton Fire and Police Station in Liverpool, Broomfields in Warrington, Mill Lane in Liverpool and Plank Lane in Wigan; and specialist accommodation for over 55s at James Phoenix House in Warrington. Torus will build a further 435 homes for older people by 2024.

However, support is needed on a national level from Government to accelerate the speed homes for older people are built. As a housing provider and strategic partner of Homes England, Torus works with multiple local authorities to bolster access to specialist housing, and are already recording improved outcomes for our older residents, but with construction playing catch up, will national and regional housing stock ever be able to support the increasing numbers of older people to live well in our population?

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