Can Retirement villages offer an alternative to traditional Care homes?

Can Retirement villages offer an alternative to traditional Care homes?

Demand for luxury housing within new retirement village developments is at an all time high, claims Nick Sanderson, chief executive of Audley Retirement.

And in a blistering attack on current residential care provision, he declares that 75% of Care Homes should close because they now fall short on modern standards and customer expectation.

Audley Retirement, which runs eight retirement villages and is currently developing four more, provides what it calls "extra-care housing". People buy a house or apartment within the complex which allows access both to luxury facilities, said by the company, to “rival any country house hotel”, and to 24-hour care support as needed. Residents pay a monthly fee plus any care costs and, on selling the property, a separate management fee of up to 15% of the sale price.

Demand is so strong, the company cannot build villages quickly enough, says Mr Sanderson.

“We can’t build fast enough at this particular time. We can’t find the land to meet our objectives. We could sell everything we build several times over. It’s an idea whose time has come.”

He refers to recent research funded by Bupa and Audley which suggests that residents living in supported communities experience only half the levels of loneliness reported by older people living independently elsewhere. It claims they have a higher quality of life and feel more in control of things.

“I started by developing and operating care homes and saw a lot of people moving in who frankly should not have been there,” Sanderson said. “That’s how we started housing with care.

“There is a need for care homes. There always will be. But it should be a specialist and, dare I say it, end-of-life provision, particularly around issues like dementia. They are not somewhere where people with low-dependency needs should be."

This is a view surely few would disagree with. Housing provision that tackles the isolation and loneliness experienced by too many older people, and allows people to live as independently as possible has to be welcomed. 

Director of the Housing Learning and Improvement Network, Jeremy Porteus, in supporting the need for greater provision of extra-care housing. campaigns government, at both national and local level, to forge stronger relationships with developers like Audley to get more schemes off the ground, to provide homes both for sale, and for rent.

BUT where, we feel, Sanderson falls fouls of common opinion, is where he starts his attack on traditional style Care Homes.

With dementia rates predicted to rise dramatically, and the complexity of care needs increase as people love longer, the demand for high dependency care is unlikely to decrease.

In a comment to The Guardian, Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents leading care home operators, said Sanderson was ignoring both the high level of dependency of the typical care home resident in 2015 and the fact that most people could not afford to buy into Audley’s model of housing with care.

“I think he was rather foolish not to acknowledge the reality that in the 21st century there is a chronic need for very high dependency care of people who would not be able to live in one of his care villages,” Green said. “They are not options for anybody but the very rich.”

The debate rages on.....

Extracts quoted from David Brindle's article in The Guardian Social Network on 24/08/15. Click here for full article