I could wax lyrical about the benefits of living in a supportive retirement community for as long you’d be happy to listen. The improvement in wellbeing that comes from no longer being lonely, feeling safe and having easy access to good food, support and activities is plain to see in our residents here at Lynwood. Clearly, though, I am biased; a confirmed believer. So, it was interesting that, over the last few weeks, not one but two independent reports from highly respected bodies were published that also support the case for retirement villages.
Group activities are as beneficial as exercise
NICE (the National Institute for Clinical and Care Excellence) cites research published in BMJ Open that found belonging to clubs and societies has a positive impact that is comparable to the benefits of physical exercise. The research tracked people in the six years after retirement and found that every club or group membership given up corresponded to a 10% drop in quality of life by the end of the six-year study. If simply keeping up with your choir or walking group can significantly improve your quality of life, imagine the impact living in an active, supportive community could have. If your clubs and groups are a short stroll away, you’re far more likely to keep them up as you get older than if they involve travel and you’re far more likely to join new ones if they’re on your doorstep.
When daily activities become a struggle
As well as improving wellbeing, retirement villages can also ease pressure on the NHS. Research cited in Growing Old Together, a report published by the NHS Confederation’s Independent Commission on Improving Urgent Care for Older People says at the age of 70 around 30% of people have one or more difficulties with the activities of daily living, such as washing, dressing and walking. By the time we’re 80 years old, the research suggests, around half of us will struggle with one or more daily activities. Unwilling to surrender their independence, those facing this daily struggle will soldier on until they have an accident and end up in A&E. Their stay in hospital will be longer than necessary because they don’t have the appropriate support or accommodation to allow a return home. Had they been living in accommodation that was suited to their needs, like a retirement village, with care and support on hand the accident may not have happened in the first place, but, if it did, at least their time occupying a hospital bed would have been shorter.
With an ageing population this scenario is all too common in hospitals across the UK, adding enormous pressure to an already overstretched NHS. We allow older people to struggle on until a crisis occurs, then it’s panic stations as we try and patch something together to get them home, until, inevitably, it happens again. If more people lived in housing that was designed for their needs, with support on hand, it would alleviate both their daily struggle and the pressure on the finite resources of the NHS. I may be biased but it sounds to me like retirement villages have a great deal to offer.
- BMJ Open, research by University of Queensland, Australia
- Growing Old Together: sharing new ways to support older people – a report by the NHS Confederation’s Independent Commission on Improving Urgent Care for Older People
- English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2014)