By David Main, Chief Executive of Lynwood Village
I talk to people about retirement living every day and some of the stories I hear make me wonder whether they really understand what quality of later life actually is and what people need to achieve it. Recently I heard about a couple that bought an apartment in a luxury complex and opted to have a live-in carer. Your first thought might be ‘what luxury!’ and it’s true that this is certainly only an option for the very wealthy. My first thought was ‘how isolating!’. Imagine being stuck in your ivory tower with your carer, still having to negotiate a world not designed for the frail or less mobile, with company only when people can find time in their busy lives to visit.
I also hear of residential developments that are badged ‘retirement’ because you have to be over a certain age to live there, but that don’t take in account the real needs of older people. For example, one of these ‘retirement’ complexes had a beautiful swimming pool but it was down a flight of steep stairs so no-one ever used it.
Good retirement villages don’t shy away from the real-life needs of their residents and they create an environment that is easy to navigate and supportive. As we age we become less able to balance, so level thresholds and lifts are essential to avoid slips, trips and falls. At Lynwood even the threshold into your home is level. Similarly, roll top baths with lion paw feet may look fabulous in a sales brochure but getting in and out of a steep-sided bath is a leading cause of injury in over 65s. That’s why at Lynwood we have spacious wet rooms with textured floors to reduce the risk of slipping. It might not look quite so stunning in a photo but we know that this is the best, most user-friendly design that will enable independence for longer.
Social isolation is another threat to the health of older people. Age UK estimates that over one million people regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone. As well as being a source of national shame, this isn’t going to be solved by simply knocking up some ‘retirement’ complexes and herding older people into them. Good retirement villages have teams of dedicated people who create opportunities to socialise, organise trips with appropriate transport to get residents out and about, as well as providing delicious, affordable food to ensure nutritious meals are readily available.
At Lynwood, in addition to all these things, we recognise that older people will have care needs at some point in their lives. Our on-site team of specially trained carers will provide as little or as much support as our residents need, but the important thing is that they are always just a phonecall away at any time of day or night. Having a 24/7 dedicated care team (staffed by our own permanent employees, not a third party provider) is a sharp contrast to many other ‘retirement’ complexes. Some of these provide access to care between the hours of nine and five then switch to a remote agency, so it won’t be a familiar face that comes if you need help ‘out of hours’. Other ‘retirement’ housing developments simply have no care aspect at all, they are just homes designed for older people and with planning restriction on the age profile.
The problem with ‘retirement’ housing that doesn’t address the real needs of older people is that their residents may end up having to move again, with all the practical and financial disruption this entails. If property developers want to create sustainable, supportive environments for older people they need to grasp the real life issues of ageing. That way, retirement housing will provide older people with a good quality of life, in an environment that understands and truly accommodates their needs.
If you or someone you love wants to live in friendly community, specifically designed for older people, come and see us