The innovative approach towards housing and care for older people in Essex has been welcomed in Parliament – and is a hit with Essex residents too. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Care for Older People acknowledged Independent Living housing programme in the House of Lords in October 2016.
Independent Living is attractive, self-contained housing with 24-hour care and support on-site. Around 2,000 Essex residents will benefit from the £27.7 million investment in the programme to meet demand for housing options that can support and enable older people to live independently.
The new Independent Living homes will be created around the county between 2016 and 2021. The investment will enable eligible older people in the county - who would otherwise be housed in residential care, or receive domiciliary care in a home of their own that may no longer meets their needs - to live independently.
The Independent Living programme is based on the Extra Care housing model. However, there are just 429 units of Extra Care housing in the county.
Winnie Miller, 89, is a resident at the existing Helen Court Extra Care scheme in Witham. Both Winnie and her son Dennis, 62, have felt the benefits this kind of specialist housing can bring to older people in later life.
Dennis said: “Living in a three bedroom house with stairs had become unmanageable for Mum. She wasn’t bad enough for a care home; she could live independently. But she needed to live somewhere that had an element of care. From the day she moved in, until now, Mum’s physical health, mental health and general wellbeing have improved beyond measure.”
Winnie said: “I wanted to get away because I was on my own. I feel much happier here; it’s fantastic. If I’m lonely, I go downstairs and it’s like a little family. If I want to be on my own, I close my front door and can be alone in my own home. You please yourself, because it’s independent living. To me, it’s luxury. I’ve got everything I want. But, most importantly, it feels like home.”
Dennis added: “It’s a big wrench for older people like Mum, who have lived in the same house for 60 years, to move. I thought that it would be really difficult for her; but from day one it’s been fantastic. I’m now a tremendous exponent of the Independent Living concept. For me, I think it’s excellent news that many more older people will have the opportunity to benefit like my Mum has.”
To be eligible for Independent Living housing, an individual must be aged 55 or over, require six or more hours of care each week and have a connection to the area where the scheme is located.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Care for Older People is chaired by Peter Aldous MP and Lord Best. Its purpose is to highlight the importance of the role of housing alongside social care and health in providing greater choice and more effective support in later life.