What is Extra Care Housing?
'Extra care' or 'assisted living housing' is a relatively new concept that is filling an important gap in the elderly care industry. Also known as 'very sheltered developments / schemes' or 'housing with care', this type of housing is designed to cater for a frail and incapacitated, yet fiercely independent-minded ageing population.
Assisted living housing developments allow for independent living, but with appropriate levels of care. The aim of extra care housing schemes is to help elderly people live as independent a life as possible within the community, whilst at the same time providing them with a degree of support tailored to individual needs.
Extra care housing evolved originally from the sheltered housing style complexes that are now so popular throughout the United States. Today, purpose built extra care housing is fast becoming big business in the UK, with housing developers keen to cash in on this burgeoning sector of the private and rental elderly niche housing market. It really is a case of supply and demand. A number of these schemes are government funded, with strong investment by both public and private sectors in extra care housing development for the elderly.
Extra care housing is designed to make life easier for older people who can no longer cope with entirely independent living. These new generation schemes have a very similar remit to the more traditional sheltered housing developments. The properties are purpose built and targeted mainly at individuals with mobility problems, such as wheelchair users and older people looking for assistance with the practicalities of day-to-day living. Extra care housing provides easy access accommodation with, for example, kitchens and bathrooms adapted to meet individual needs. Some developments also have care staff on site who can offer unobtrusive assistance for those who prefer a little extra help. Different levels of support are available throughout the various schemes.
Research into the growth of the extra care housing market found that:
. on the plus side -
- one of the biggest attractions of extra care housing, from a user point of view, was the combination of independence, autonomy, privacy and the relatively high level of care and security that such a setting provides;
- assisted living housing actually promoted independence and reduced reliance on institutional style facilities;
- decreased social isolation;
- compared with studies into the state of health of older people living within the community, housing with care was found to help maintain and promote the health status of residents over comparable periods of time;
- certain evidence existed to suggest that extra care housing may help reduce the demands made on the NHS services by the ageing UK population;
- an extra care housing environment tended to promote a better quality of life, generating an overall higher level of satisfaction among residents;
. on the downside -
- a tendency by many older people to move on from housing with care to residential and nursing care homes, indicating that extra care housing schemes do not necessarily suit all elderly people, particularly those with severe disabilities such as dementia;
- extra care schemes did not always meet residents' expectations regarding expected levels of care provision (these findings, however, were often based on subjective opinion about the different levels of support that were deemed desirable);
- the benefits of social integration and mutual support were not felt, across the board, with those residents suffering from greater physical or cognitive impairment, worst affected;
- inadequate provision for end-of-life care and palliative care was noted within many extra care housing settings.
Interestingly, although evidence is not conclusive and is sometimes contradictory, analyses to date have shown that housing with care can often prove less cost effective than residential care in a traditional care home environment.
The long-term success of housing with care has yet to be determined. Whether these schemes can provide that ideal balance in later life remains to be seen. But one thing is certain. Contemporary extra care housing schemes are generating a high level of interest among an increasingly vociferous older generation that has no intention of becoming marginalised in retirement.