Nicholas John talks to David Scott-Malden, Operations Director at Inspired Villages, about how the population is ageing and how its needs can be met.
We hear in the media that people are living longer these days. Can you give me some idea of the statistics and the numbers involved in the United Kingdom?
The population of the UK is expected to rise from approximately 64 million in 2015 to around 70 million by 2033. The main reason, as well as increasing immigration, is, as you said, that people are living longer. However, the greatest change is in the profile of the population – for the first time ever, there are 11 million people in the UK over 65.
And two years ago, information from the Office of National Statistics observed that the over-80s population had reached 3 million and we are now facing the prospect that this figure will have doubled by 2033. The ‘baby boomer’ generation has truly grown up; people are moving into their seventies and they’re a major reason for the growth in the older population. And, of course, advances in primary healthcare enable people to live longer than ever before. It’s estimated that more than half of the people born in 2009 will live to be over a hundred!
This sounds like good news obviously but many older people suffer from poor health in later life. This must have an impact across society?
Well, unfortunately, health deteriorates with age. As well as the common conditions and complaints like arthritis, loss of hearing and diminished eyesight, people in their seventies and above are susceptible to a whole range of physical and mental illnesses including, most commonly, diabetes, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, incontinence and dementia.
As people live longer, they will spend more of their life in ill health. By 2025, men will live an average of 6.8 years and women will live an average of 9.1 years of their life with a long-term illness. The number of people over the age of 65 with a debilitating, long-term illness will rise 45% from 4.2 million to 6.1 million. Around 1% of the population requires the use of a wheelchair now, with level access a minimum, and 750,000 people in the UK need specialist adaptations and equipment for daily living.
What are the alternatives for people who need care or support?
Historically, most couples continued to live in the family home after their children had grown up and left. They usually stayed until one or the other was too frail to continue living there or died, or an accident or illness forced one into a care home, even if one or both partners did not require full-time care. As a result, many elderly couples were split up, one feeling isolated in care while the other was left to maintain the family house. This often left them possibly lacking the ability or confidence to live alone and dependent on children who had settled miles away in pursuit of jobs or partners. On top of this, failing eyesight and other deteriorating health issues can make safe driving difficult which, of course, leads to further isolation.
How were these issues addressed in the past?
Not very well, to be honest. A lack of specialist accommodation, including apartments with appropriate facilities and services, deprived people of viable alternatives and early attempts by developers of housing for the elderly failed to provide an adequate solution to the over-riding problem that, while we could create properties for the elderly, we couldn’t provide the sort of care and lifestyle that they wanted.
This resulted in blocks of apartments being built in urban settings with a warden call and communal lounge, but with no assistance for the day-to-day necessities of food, care or transport. However, now there is a significant planned growth in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) – purpose-built communities where residents can enjoy flexible and responsive care and support that is available around the clock.
Why do you consider continuing care retirement communities to be the best option for the elderly?
Well, people are more discerning nowadays about the long-term welfare of their parents and, ultimately, themselves, and these communities enable individuals to remain independent in their own homes for longer and, in most cases, for life. Usually, villages have high-quality facilities and activities designed to promote individual health and wellbeing, which may be shared with the local community, normally including a choice of dining and restaurant facilities, as well as health and fitness and local, private transport in a chauffeured vehicle.
CCRCs also allow residents the flexibility to transfer between the different types of accommodation as their needs change, without the major and often distressing upheaval of physical relocation. By remaining in the same community there is a continuity of relationships, with other residents as well as with the care and support staff.
Peace of mind is important to us all and social interaction, varied and diverse activities, high-quality services and amenities and first-class care and support all help to give this. We all want to stay healthy and active for as long as possible, and retirement villages offer a stable, comfortable, caring environment where residents can make the most of every minute!
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