Who knows best?

Blog by Sue Adams, CEO of Care & Repair England

One of the things that younger and older people have in common is that someone else thinks they know what is best for them.

As a young person it’s usually your parents, but as you get older the tables can turn and the offspring are now telling the parents what they ought to do.

This is particularly the case when it comes to housing decisions. The retirement housing sector woke up to this some time ago, identifying daughters and daughters-in-law as a key influence in an older person (usually widowed female) moving into specialist accommodation.

Whilst in most instances the ‘influencers’ have the older person’s best interests at heart, this is not always the case. Inheritance of housing equity, family convenience (e.g. closer location), fewer caring responsibilities etc. can also play a part. There is also a growing number of older people ageing without children who don’t have a helpful family member with whom they can discuss their later life housing and care.

Whether it is an individual older person, family and/or friends weighing up later life options, everyone needs good quality, impartial information about what is possible.

A new report from the Centre for Ageing Better warns that people who are making housing decisions, whether about adapting their home or moving so that they can live independently and well for longer in later life, can be hindered by the lack of co-ordinated housing information and advice to help them plan for the future.

I was particularly pleased to read that this report, Home truths – Housing options and advice for people in later life: Learning from communities in Leeds, is calling for improvements to local provision of independent housing information and advice alongside reinstatement of national government funding for a complimentary, specialist national advice service.

Care & Repair England has worked for decades to support an evidence based model of a combination of national and local housing information and advice, including the successful initiative delivered through the Elderly Accommodation’s First Stop programme. Our own Silverlinks project also provided people with self help information and supported action by older volunteers working with local agencies.

Sadly, access to such help has declined significantly in recent years, as funding for housing information and advice has been cut to the bone and all national funding ceased.

The MHCLG Select Committee’s Housing for Older People Inquiry Report also recommended that:

  • The existing FirstStop Advice Service should be re-funded by the Government to provide an expanded national telephone advice service, providing holistic housing advice to older people and signposting them to local services.

Let us hope that the new Housing Minister will review this report and act on this and other recommendations.