The needs of an ageing population and the coming of age of the baby boomer generation means planners should encourage moves to break down the traditional polarisation of care delivery.
Many people think their housing options are limited. They can stay in their own home or go into a care home, the latter being a last resort. Staying at home can seem attractive at first but, as care needs intensify, it can lead to limitations on lifestyle and increasing isolation as services are brought in to the individual, diminishing everyday social interaction.
The generation that brings us retirement age rock stars is unlikely to relish either of these options.
Innovative housing schemes
Increasingly the demand is for integrating care needs into a lifestyle choice that takes fragility into account and seeks to accommodate it within a positive fulfilling lifestyle. This has led to the rise of innovative housing provision, with retirement villages and extra care housing increasingly becoming a feature of an integrated structure plan for development. There is now a greater choice of housing care provision mirroring an increasingly diverse older population.
Continuing to play a role in the life of the community is important to many older people who are looking to downsize their home but not their lifestyle. Of equal importance is choice and control over the services provided. This means provision of leisure and learning opportunities are likely to be as significant as good health and care, and for an increasing minority, retirement villages are the preferred option.
In these villages, homes are grouped around shared country club-type facilities. The facilities often include a restaurant, gym, swimming pool, library, hairdresser and so on, and medical support.
The villages allow the residents to stay in their own homes while accessing personalised care support. Some developments have residential and nursing care homes integrated into the site.
Another version of this proactive approach to the years of retirement is the development of lifetime neighbourhoods. These have shared facilities on-site, such as gardens and leisure centres, which are also available to the wider local community.
This builds on the recognition that planners should future proof communities by facilitating the integration of older people, rather than providing housing that marginalises them.
Technology also plays a significant part in the development of supportive living. Many of the retirement housing options routinely incorporate so-called telecare systems. These include personal alarms, environmental sensors to detect smoke, water flooding and unlit gas, and temperature or movement sensors that detect if a bed is occupied or a person has fallen and cannot get up.
As always, information is the key to choice. When planning for their retirement, clients need to be aware that care provision has moved on considerably and there really is something for everyone.