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Extra-care housing offers older people independence and reassurance

Raymond Knotts took the decision to move into a “care village” in Crewe two years ago. He’d had a fall at home, where he had lived alone since the death of his wife, and his family felt he needed some support. He has no regrets.

“I came here straight after recovering from the fall and it was definitely the right place for me,” says Knotts, 92, a former engineering worker with Rolls-Royce. “The garden was a big factor, as I like gardening, and the staff are always on hand if you need something and we always have plenty to do here.

“I’m in a reading group, and we have children from the local community who come in to read to some residents every week. Living here has helped me maintain my independence, but there are people around to talk to when I want. I still go swimming every fortnight and I’ve been helping to create a therapy garden for some of the residents who have dementia.”

The care village is an “extra-care” development run by Belong, a not-for-profit provider. It is home to a core 66 people, divided into “households” of between 10 and 12 residents, with a communal area and kitchen where they can cook their own meals or have them prepared by kitchen staff. There are an additional 12 apartments for couples or single people who live more independently, but who can access support when necessary.

Extra-care or “very sheltered” housing offers rental or leasehold properties for older people, with personal care and support as an add-on service. Its flexibility enables residents to continue living behind their own front door, providing a viable alternative to a residential home.

The approach was fostered under the last Labour government, when an Extra Care Fund was set up by ministers to stimulate the market.

However, following the financial crash of 2008 demand dipped and it took until 2013 for the sector to start to show strong signs of recovery. According to Philip Mickelborough, an analyst who compiles an annual report on the state of the extra-care market, 2016 was a record year for growth, fuelled by the arrival in the UK of developers from Australia and New Zealand, such as LifeCare Residences, the company behind the luxury Battersea Place scheme in south-west London, where leasehold prices average more than £1m.

More than 5,000 new extra-care units were built last year, of which 48% were sold as leasehold for an average of more than £260,000. The estimated value of care provided was £725m.

“The figures are still small, as just 5% of people aged 65 and over live in sheltered, extra-care and private retirement housing – and only 0.5% live in extra-care facilities,” says Mickelborough.

“Most developments are now mixed-tenure: a combination of leasehold apartments, which residents can buy to give them long-term security, and rooms for rent in a block or household. Both of these groups, or their families, then pay extra for the services they need, ranging from round-the-clock care for people with dementia, to basic support for more independent residents, such as help with shopping or being accompanied on outings. About 72% of residents have been property owners, so they want to own the property they move into.

For the full article please visit The Guardian.

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd. Published on 12th October 2017.

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