Today at the ARCO Conference, the UK’s housing-with-care sector adopted the new term Integrated Retirement Community to describe their service-led operational model. Responding to research on the views of older people which showed that they were ‘fed up’ with outdated terminology, the UK national body representing Integrated Retirement Communities (IRC) led calls for clearer language and clearer housing choices – in particular a desire to end the use of terms such as old people’s homes.
The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) consulted with 600 55 – 75+ year olds across England. Findings show that existing terms to be confusing and at times offputting, leaving people unclear and uninspired when considering an ever growing number of new living options now available.
ARCO will be working with members and the wider sector to support the adoption of the new term, including providing a clear toolkit and guide to language as well as infographics to describe the differences.
Taking on respondents’ recommendations for new terminology, ARCO has called on the sector and Government to use a single term, ‘Integrated Retirement Community’, to describe the new form of specialist housing which its members provide for over 78,000 older people across the UK and plan to provide to a quarter of a million people over the coming years.
Integrated Retirement Communities offer older people the opportunity to live independently in their own home as part of a wider community. Lifestyle, wellbeing and care services are available to support people’s independence and aspirations. ARCO says these communities are the fast-emerging ‘lifestyle option’ for older people, sitting between ‘sheltered housing’ where minimal support is provided, and ‘care’ or ‘nursing’ homes, which are increasingly focussed on supporting people with higher levels of care needs.
ARCO Executive Director, Michael Voges, said: “Our research shows that 8 out of 10 older people are interested in housing and care options which will help them to retain their independence, enjoying a fulfilling lifestyle as part of a wider community. People want facilities such as cafés and restaurants, optional activities and social links, with care available if they need it. Integrated Retirement Communities provide this choice at a rage of price points but awareness remains low.”
Research undertaken by national law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, found that 51% of the public associate all forms of retirement housing with an ‘old people’s home’ or ‘nursing home’, despite significant differences between these living options.
Voges says language matters: “People we talked to are fed up with patronising and outdated terminology that masks the opportunity Integrated Retirement Communities provide. New options have emerged, it’s time the language did too.”
ARCO believes a lack of clear terminology impacts negatively on planning and regulation – making it harder for local authorities to understand the role Integrated Retirement Communities can play and to encourage local provision.
A joint study by Later Life Ambitions (LLA) and ARCO found that 15% (1.8m) of older people would consider moving to an Integrated Retirement Community, yet only 78,000 homes are currently available in the UK; just 0.8% of over-65s in the UK live in such a setting, compared with over 5% in New Zealand, Australia, and the US.
ARCO Chair, Nick Sanderson, says: “There’s significant unmet demand. We need Government to work with us, introducing clarity of terminology that recognises and propagates Integrated Retirement Communities. Sector specific legislation is also needed; it will help providers and planners meet demand for these communities and support consumers who are seeking to move into them.”
Sheila Lomas (87) is an advocate for Integrated Retirement Communities and lives with her husband, Brian (85), in the ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s Stoke Gifford Village, near Bristol. The community provides purchase, part-purchase and affordable rental homes, alongside a range of integrated health and leisure facilities, with care available for those who need support.
Sheila says: “Brian volunteers on the reception. I do painting classes, sit down dancing and enjoy a cuppa in the Bistro. I also love meeting the mother and babies group in the village facilities. My wheelchair’s in the cupboard these days because my walking’s better – I’ve been going to the gym! I go out of the village on shopping trips and meet up with friends too.
“It’s not an ‘old people’s home’, it’s a thriving community. Moving here is the best thing we have ever done, we are both so happy!” A report showing the impact of Covid-19 on retirement communities and schemes undertaken by ARCO member, St Monica Trust, also calls for increased awareness of the sector’s work, reflecting its significant role supporting successful care and wellbeing outcomes for older people.