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Extra care housing can promote social wellbeing

Extra care housing can do much to promote the social well-being of older people, through careful design of facilities, a person-centred approach and supporting social interaction. This is demonstrated in new research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The researchers, from the University of the West of England and Housing 21, have identified a range of 'best practice' factors. These include activities that cater for a range of interests and abilities; opportunities to develop and maintain a social life independent of the housing scheme; integrating housing schemes with the local community, and providing care and support services outside core hours of work.

Extra care is a popular model of housing provision for older people. A range of models have been developed, which usually consist of homes with full legal tenancy rights in combination with 24 hour on-site care that can be adapted to the changing needs of residents. Extra care schemes offer a broad range of facilities and social activities that aim to cater for diverse aspirations and reflect the trend towards an active lifestyle in later life.

The research was carried out by means of in-depth interviews with residents and managers from six extra care housing schemes in England by senior research fellow Simon Evans from UWE and Sarah Vallelly, research manager with Housing 21 which is a national provider of housing, care and support services for older people.

Simon Evans said, “There is now renewed emphasis on older people's issues, largely because an increasing proportion of the population is aged 50 or over.

“We found that the tenants most at risk of social exclusion include people who have recently moved in, people who don't receive regular contact from family or friends and those who have impaired mobility and/or reduced cognitive function. A person-centred approach to care provision can contribute towards social well-being and we recommend that this should be based on comprehensive personal profiles developed in collaboration with tenants, their relatives and referrers.

“A system of designated key workers can maximise the benefits of interaction with staff, particularly for tenants at greatest risk of social exclusion. There is also a need for understanding and toleration of diversity by a range of stakeholders, including tenants, family carers and professionals across housing, health and social care.”

Other important factors identified in the report include design of the built environment, the provision of facilities, and links between housing schemes and the wider community.

The authors offer a range of examples of good practice for promoting social well-being in extra care housing and other similar settings. They hope that these will be taken on board by those responsible for planning, designing and managing this increasingly popular form of housing for older people.

The full report entitled Social Well-being in Extra-care Housing by Simon Evans and Sarah Vallelly was published on 31 August 2007 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The report can be downloaded free from

Lesley Drake | alfa
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