Living happier for longerPosted on: 07 May 2014 by 50connect editorial
Sara McKee, founder of Evermore, examines why institutionalised care and lack of choice for people in later life should be consigned to the past.
Inevitably when someone writes an article or blog about planning for later life, phrases like ‘demographic time bomb’ and ‘silver tsunami‘ are thrown into the mix, or alternatively baby boomers are chastised for putting the NHS under growing pressure.
These articles take an inherently negative and stereotypical approach to ageing, looking at a natural occurrence as a problem rather than an opportunity. It doesn’t help that this view is reinforced by fashion labels encouraging us to conceal signs of ageing or cosmetic companies selling us dyes to cover up grey hair or the latest miracle cure that promises to eradicate wrinkles.
We believe that ageing is a positive experience, and that planning for later life should be one too. It is a chance to look ahead, and start putting in place the steps needed to ensure you can continue to enjoy a happy and meaningful existence.
Thanks to science, we are living longer than ever and many of us could be around for 20 or 30 years after we retire. At the onset of retirement our focus is on our finances and reviewing our pension to calculate how much money we need to sustain us. At this point we might ignore or avoid the question of where we’ll live when we hit our 80s or 90s.
Stereotypical views of ageing
It’s not surprising really as the current care system doesn’t encourage forward planning. Who wants to think about saving money so you can afford to live in a care home? It’s an institutionalised and outdated model that is no longer fit for purpose, and certainly doesn’t inspire hope and optimism about the future.
Yet the sector doesn’t seem to get it. Whether it’s giving existing care homes a facelift or building retirement living communities that resemble a hotel, residential care providers continue to offer hospital-like facilities.
In these buildings the signs of institutionalisation are clear. Staff dictate the schedule – whether it’s the time that meals are served or a roster of prescribed activities – nursing stations abound, as do sterile, bleach-like smells and medicine trolleys.
Assumptions are made about people’s ability due to their age and stereotypes are rife. Residents are treated as passive recipients of care instead of grown adults able to make the decisions that impact their health and wellbeing. Independence, choice, control, and individualism are quashed by a system built to suit the management not the resident.
Realistic alternatives to residential care
What’s more, they’re disconnected from the community. Often situated outside of a town or city centre, it is difficult for residents to leave and the only intergenerational activity might be the occasional visit from local school children.
We want to abolish this archaic and ageist approach to later life and create a fresh, new setting that provides you (or your parents) with a realistic alternative to residential care, somewhere to enjoy many years of happy living and feeling good.
This new vision of later life involves bringing together like-minded individuals who don’t want to live alone when they get older. Love, laughter and lives are shared in a family home environment where people own their apartment but come together to cook an evening meal, trade stories over supper or enjoy a glass of wine.
In this new type of family living, single older people take part in the normal domestic routine of living at home. They share daily chores, whether that’s peeling the potatoes or helping with the ironing, because age isn’t any reason to stop doing what you’ve always done, even if you might need a little more help.
Instead of being confined to the outskirts of town, these households will be situated right in the centre of the community. This means householders can continue using the local amenities they’re familiar with, take part in the local groups or events without having to be ‘bussed in’ via coach, walk easily to the shops or visit friends.
At all times people will feel valued, respected, listened to and most importantly loved. They’ll enjoy a place where there will always be good company, or help if they need it, where they can contribute and most importantly live happier for longer.
This is the future where old age is seen as an opportunity to do what you love or learn new things, make new friends or nourish existing relationships. It’s a future you can actually look forward to planning.
About Sara McKee
Sara is founder and market innovation director at Evermore. She is on a mission to revolutionise the lifestyle choices for older people, abolishing the current institutional models and building homes where love matters.
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