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Older Living Matters

Perhaps the biggest issue for older people is where to live. This can decide if old age is happy – or not. You can’t anticipate everything that may happen

– but you can have a good go..


Decisions taken early, before they have to be taken, can make everything else so much easier.  It may not make someone healthy, but it can help ensure a lifestyle they want

No one wants to be deciding where to live in a crisis. At that point, there may seem no option other than to go into the much-dreaded care home. There are excellent reasons why older people fear such a fate. But, if you plan ahead, you may have the option of staying at home, if that is where you want to be.




Can the house be a long term home?

  • Is the house older-friendly or can it be made older-friendly?

  1. Is it warm? Older people tend to feel the cold.

  2. If there are stairs, can a stair lift be put in?

  3. Are there awkward steps everywhere?

  4. Could a walk-in shower be fitted downstairs?

  5. Could a carer live in, if necessary?

  • Will it be isolated? Is there a local network?

  1. Are the neighbours at home and are they friendly?

  2. There is not much point moving to a seaside resort miles away, if someone has a good social network where they are.

  3. If someone cannot get out and the neighbours are hostile or absent, will they be isolated?

  4. Would moving close to the family improve the situation?

  5. Where is the best support or opportunities? 

  • Is the home too much? 

  1. Is cleaning and maintaining the current home and/or garden too much?

  2. If it’s in a good state of repair, and there is  money to pay for help, there may be no reason to move.

  3. A larger home can be an advantage because it offers live-in care options. But there’s no point staying put, if the house is just a burden. 

  • Think about the options

  1. There’s no reason to move house if you’re going to be worse off - more isolated, with less money and fewer services.

  2. But you need to think seriously about where you all want to be in five or ten years’ time - then make a decision. .























  • Buying somewhere communally with family or friendsThis is set to become a big trend in future, following the Marigold Hotel films, with people trying to avoid social isolation and the much-hated residential care and the massive fees that go with it.  

  • Multi-generational or communal living offers an alternative. It’s got many advantages, if it’s done properly and ground rules are set. It may sound hippyish, but anecdotal evidence suggests there is a small but growing trend of people buying a large property to create their own community. Groups have established purpose-built housing along these lines but they warn that you need to have a large enough group to make it work properly.

  • Living with a member of the family. Many people don’t have enough room, although extensions, loft conversions and even granny-cabins can create a multi-generational home. It saves on care costs, cuts social isolation and is the norm in many other countries. It is anathema to many in the west, though, brought up on a diet of ‘running away’ films. Plus, many people would rather do anything other than have their parent move in. Just because someone is older, doesn't mean they're nicer or that you're all going to get on. But it is worth considering. A lot of the anxieties of the Sandwich Generation are brought on by distance and guilt. This is a growing trend with a long way to run.

  • Retirement housing. These are usually flats, often in town centres, from where you can access services and shops and there is likely to be company, of sorts. The trouble is, these flats are often tiny, while older people tend to have large furniture. And the company you meet may not be to your taste, especially if you’re on your own or don’t want to spend all your time with old people. Some complain that such developments are very ‘couples orientated’ or cliquey. You also need to watch the service charges and whether someone can stay put, if they become unwell. Many such places do not allow this and you could end up in a care home anyway;

  • Sheltered or Extra Care housing. This may not seem appropriate, if you're well able to look after yourself. But, if you wait until it is, it may be too late. Some extra care developments are luxurious, some basic. But they are based on a similar concept – retirement living with care options. The advantages are that older people can stay put, come what may. Issues again may be around whether someone wants to spend all their time with older people. But be careful in terms of service and care charges, also the ‘deal’ with the provider. Some take a very big chunk of the proceeds, when the place is sold, on top of all the service charges you have paid. 




Alternatives. The prospect of having older parents to live with the family may sound unappealing. But, if the alternative is them becoming socially isolated and developing serious conditions or unsuccessfully struggling to live alone, then it is worth talking about, especially if otherwise your time will be taken up running backwards and forwards to their house. A lot of the issues – shopping, cooking, bills, replacing light bulbs etc – will not be issues if you have gone the communal route.

It is worth exploring all options, rather than recoiling in disgust and picking the, apparently, least worst. Planning ahead really is possible and can make things a whole lot easier.  

If older relatives are struggling to cope with the shopping now, they may be unable to make meals in six months and incapable of taking a bath by Christmas. Try to figure out what the worst case scenario will be, and work on that basis.


Live-in Care. If you cannot have an older relative to live with you, or would rather throw yourself under a bus, and they would not be able to live in a sheltered housing project or don’t want to, they still have options other than residential care.  They may be able to cope with  carers coming in several times a day to help them. See the section on home care here.


There are also agencies and individuals who will live-in with an older person, effectively becoming their main carer, helper and housemate all in one. This can allow them to stay in their own home, even if they are living alone, and means they receive individual care.




  • Every family and every older person is different;

  • Plan early and consider seriously all the options;

  • If you avoid talking about it, you probably will end up in a care home.

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