Today I spoke in a debate on ‘the impact of Covid-19 on retirement communities’. This is an issue which has received precious little attention during the pandemic. I believe retirement communities must play an big part in plans for social care reform.
Retirement communities – or housing with care developments – allow older people to live independently in their own homes. However, only 0.5% of over-65s live in these developments in he UK, compared to 5-6% in other countries.
Like everyone, retirement communities faced challenges during the pandemic. Residents were lonely and isolated, and providers struggled with PPE and staff shortages. Despite this, a smaller proportion of people died from Covid-19 in retirement communities, compared to the same age range elsewhere. Residents in these developments also do more exercise, have fewer falls, and are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. This benefits the entire health system. Some evidence suggests that those living in retirement housing are 38% less likely to go to hospital.
Labour supports an expansion of housing with care options. There are three things we need:
A clearly defined category of housing with care in our planning system.
Legislation and regulation for housing with care, to give residents confidence in the system.
A range of housing with care options that are affordable to people of all backgrounds.
The number of over-65s is expected to go up by 40% by 2040. We need more housing options for older people, and housing with care is one of the ways to do this.