NONE of us want to think about getting old. But it is something we all have to come to terms with at some point.
One of the main reasons is the thought of losing our independence, becoming a burden to our friends and families, and possibly having to go into care. That’s something many of us really struggle with.
It’s true that for many years, housing and care options for older people have been fairly limited. But the sector is seeing major changes and this is something I am really excited about, not just for the 20,000 older people we look after but for those we deal with in the future.
Just as our priorities and expectations as consumers change, older people expectations are changing. Yes, they need to feel safe and secure, but they also want freedom to live their lives their way for as long as they can. And why should their choices be limited?
For our growing, ageing population, this means anything from being able to hire a helper to deliver their fish and chips, to high-tech GPS tracking to enable those with dementia to go out safely.
Older people want to remain in their homes for as long as possible before moving into a care home, which doesn’t mean they will lose independence or own front door.
The housing and care sector needs to respond to these aspirations. There are major challenges here, mostly because as demand soars there is a decreasing government budget to cover it. But it is vital we find innovative ways to meet older people’s needs and expectations within the budget limitations.
At Bield we have developed several new initiatives to tailor housing to meet older people’s needs. Our new model of retirement housing offers the option of choosing levels of support and a new personalised home care service provides a very flexible approach. We know we’re at the beginning of a road leading to radical change and we’re excited at the opportunities it will bring to the elderly. But we recognise it’s a long journey we can’t make on our own.
It means everyone involved in the care of older people – from our politicians, regulators health professionals and the couple with an elderly mother through to the 50-something with an eye on their future – must think differently about how we look at delivering care.
Thinking about getting older is never easy. But as we all start living longer and fuller and more active lives, it is vital that care requirements in the future are a priority.
Brian Logan is chief executive of Edinburgh-based housing and care provider Bield