Minister Damien English and Minister Jim Daly host Expert Conference on Housing for Older People 

Mr Damien English, T.D., Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal together with, Mr Jim Daly, T.D, Minister for Mental Health and Older People today (20th November 2018) hosted an Expert Conference on Housing for Older People at Farmleigh House, Dublin. The purpose of the Conference was to bring together experts who are working to provide the kind of housing which allows people to age with dignity in a home of their choice and where necessary, to provide supports in accordance with the objectives of Rebuilding Ireland. This expertise will serve to inform the policy framework to underpin this objective which is currently being drafted by the two Departments

Minister English said “There are a number of key principles underpinning Government policy on housing for older people and on which our policy framework will be constructed. These are putting in place measures to ensure that sustainable housing is provided in the right location to enable people to age in the community; to design housing and the environment in accordance with the principles of sustainable lifetime housing; to promote the use of assistive technology to support people to live independently; to give adequate consideration to the need for social connectedness in devising policy; and, to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve the policy objectives

The experts we have heard today have explained how these principles can be brought to fruition in imaginative and practical ways which bring about tangible benefits for the older person. I will ensure that this invaluable knowledge is integrated into the development of policy in this vital issue for us all.”

Minister Daly said “This conference will outline various principles, good practice, experience and evidence that can assist with developing new options of housing with supports for older people. In recent years, as a nation, we have become very successful at adding years to life, the challenge now is to add life to those years. Developing a range of appropriate housing options for older people, with the aim of re-balancing the care model away from residential care to supporting older people to remain living independently at home and in their communities for longer is an integral part of this challenge. It is important that people are supported and encouraged to live independently, in a supported environment for as long as possible, and to plan for this as they approach retirement. This conference provides the opportunity to hear from experts in housing and health and social care services, to inform the development of an appropriate policy framework to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Note

Our ageing population is one of the most significant demographic and societal developments that Ireland has encountered in modern times. Not only are people living longer but many people are staying healthier and living better for longer. The Department of Health’s recent publication Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2017 highlights that

• Ireland is now beginning to catch up with other European countries in terms of population ageing.
• The 65 and over age group increases by 20,000 people every year.
• This trend is set to continue into the future and will have implications for future planning and health service delivery.
• The population of those aged 65 years and over is expected to almost double to around 1.1 million by 2037, with the greatest proportional increase in the 85+ age group.

In light of these figures, the implications for public policy areas as diverse as housing, health, urban and rural planning, transport, policing, the workplace and the business environment are considerable.
The impact of this growth in the number of older people will be seen primarily in relation to pension provision and in health and social care provision. Demand for health and social care is set to increase dramatically as a result. Long-term residential care may be the most appropriate care option where an older person’s needs are very complex. The care model, however, for the older population is disproportionately geared towards residential care as opposed to supporting older people to remain living independently at home for longer.

Clearly there is an urgent need to plan ahead and to acknowledge that there are both challenges and opportunities. Living at home is about more than just accommodation and care supports, it is about creating an external built environment or public realm that will be more comfortable for people as they age, where they can readily access everyday services and be socially connected. This requires an integrated approach, comprising cross-departmental and interagency cooperation of key stakeholders. This is why the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Health are working towards the development of a policy framework to support our ageing population in a way that will increase the accommodation options available to them and give them meaningful choice in how and where they choose to live.

Recent research conducted through the Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative (HaPAI) shows that overall, the majority (98%) of adults aged 55+ lived in a house. These adults have lived in their current home for an average of 32 years, and over two-thirds (87%) have lived in their current home for over 10 years. Just over one quarter live alone (27%). However this was notably higher in areas such as Dublin City (33%) and Tipperary (33%) and lower in South Dublin (16%). The majority live with their spouse or partner (54%) and 18% live in a multi-person household with their spouse and children, and/or other relatives.

More than one-in-four (78%) older adults feel positive about adapting their current home to their needs. Almost one-in-three (30%) older adults feel positive about moving to an adapted type of house. Over one-in-five (21%) older adults feel positive about living together with a few older people. One-in-ten (11%) older adults feel positive about moving to a nursing home.

Two key actions outlined in Rebuilding Ireland are being progressed together to help achieve this objective, as follows:
• 2.18: Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG), in conjunction with Department of Health (DoH), is developing policy options for supported housing/housing with care so that older people have a wider range of residential care choices available to them.
• 5.8: We will explore ways to promote the availability of stepdown, specialist housing, for older people and incentivise down-sizing, where appropriate.

Sláintecare also recognises, at its core, the importance of shifting care to the community to provide care closer to home and allow people to remain living in their communities for as long as possible.
The expert conference on housing for older people is a key step in realising these goals and its aim is to obtain the input of a wide range of experts to assist in the development of an appropriate joint policy framework.