At Age Scotland, we oversee the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Older People, Age and Ageing. It’s a group which brings together MSPs, organisations and individuals to discuss the issues which affect older people in Scotland. The latest meeting looked at ‘housing options in later life’. Here, Hannah Lister, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement Officer, gives an overview of the discussion.
Housing must play a central role if we are to respond to the changing needs of our ageing population and ensure we are able to remain valued and active members of our communities.
Government policy, locally and nationally, needs to reflect the contribution good quality housing of all tenures can make towards improving older people’s health and well-being.
Effectively integrating housing policy with that of the broader health and social care policies is therefore a vital part of ensuring we are able to deliver high-quality and personalised care packages that best respond to individuals’ needs. This will enable older people to remain at home and out of acute care settings for as long as possible – which is not only the most cost-effective means of delivering care, but also when older people consistently tell us they want.
Given this backdrop, it was to be expected that the CPG meeting on ‘housing options in later life’, leading to some lively debate. The event drew a wide-ranging audience representing different sectors and sections of the community heard from Stephen Wiseman and Paul Teverson from McCarthy & Stone and Alister Steele from Castle Rock Edinvar.
McCarthy and Stone started by putting some of the issues into perspective with figures showing that while people over 65 account for 17 per cent of the population (890,000 people) there are just 36,000 retirement homes in Scotland.
As this was a parliamentary meeting, with MSPs present, McCarthy & Stone used the opportunity to show their support for the Scottish Government’s proposed changes in Scottish Planning Policy, which they believe, amongst other things, encourages authorities to prepare policies to support older people’s housing and allocate sites for them to be built. They also welcomed the Social Care (Self Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 which aims to give people more choice and control, should they wish, in planning the care they receive.
Despite positive moves within planning policy however, the team from McCarthy & Stone did highlight the current lack of competition they have in the private retirement home market in Scotland. Perhaps surprisingly to some in the audience, they stressed how they would welcome other companies entering into this market in the future.
Next up was Alister Steele, from Castle Rock Edinvar, Scottish charity and registered social landlord, who own and manage 7000 properties. With more than 2,000 of these properties being occupied by ‘older’ customers, they have appointed a Head of Older People’s Services. Alister spoke of the community approach to their housing, including engagement with the older people themselves.
Following the presentations the issue of age restrictions was discussed. McCarthy & Stone currently markets its retirement living to people aged 60 and over and its assisted living units to those aged 70 and over. A representative of HIV Scotland highlighted the fact that more than 50 per cent of people with HIV in the UK will be aged 50 or over by next year. The question was therefore asked about whether age restrictions on private older people’s housing were the right way to go, given that some younger older people may have needs that mean they want to look at such options at an earlier age.
A question around the size of the housing association waiting list was posed to Alister Steele. He said that although less housing association homes were being built now than in the past, local authorities were actually starting to build homes themselves again so the supply is about the same as in recent years, although there is still a shortage.
Housing is a key issue for Age Scotland and we’ll be bringing you more thoughts from those within the sector over the coming months. We’re also delighted to be holding our free inaugural housing conference next month (31 March). The event will focus on what support is available to help people maintain a good quality of life in their own home for as long as possible. Find out more and book your place.
The next meeting of the Cross-Party Group on Older People, Age and Ageing is on the theme of ending loneliness and isolation and will be on Thursday 24 April at 1pm-2pm in the Scottish Parliament. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to attend.
We’ll be keeping you informed of upcoming meetings of the CPG on our website. If there’s something coming up that really matters to you or your community, you can get in touch with your MSP to highlight it and ask them to attend to find out more. If you’re not sure who your MSP is you can find out here.