New HRB report reveals well-being, autonomy and community are key when designing housing with support for older people

A new evidence review conducted by the Health Research Board (HRB) explores the perspectives of older people from around the world on housing with support and examines the impact of this kind of housing on their well-being. The review will support development of a policy framework for housing for older people in Ireland, which is being jointly developed by the Department of Health and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler says:

“We want older people in Ireland to enjoy the best possible quality of life. A big part of this is ensuring they have choice in where they live and can reside independently in the heart of a community for as long as they wish to do so. This review of global evidence on housing with support can help us learn from others as we move forward with this approach in Ireland. By helping us understand the experiences of older people themselves, this study can allow us to reflect their preferences in future policy development.”

Housing with support refers to non-institutional accommodation where older people have their own front door and access to support or care services, with the aim of providing independent, accessible housing options that can improve quality of life. The implementation of this kind of housing has been rapidly expanding in recent years – a trend that is likely to intensify in the context of COVID-19, which has made clear the risks of relying primarily on nursing homes.

Key findings from the international evidence review include:

  • Individual choice and autonomy are important for successfully transitioning to housing with support
  • The change is made easier where the housing location allows older people to maintain their existing social networks
  • While personal care and support services are a key aspect of housing with support, opportunities to socialise are also essential for well-being

The report findings are brought together in an aspirational model of housing with support that will inform future policy, with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life for older people.

Dr Camille Coyle, Research Officer at the HRB Evidence Centre, comments:

“The central role of autonomy and choice for older people was clear across the international research: housing with support enables a self-directed life that maximises independence, which is integral to well-being. An important avenue for future research will be to look at the experiences of older people living in similar housing here in Ireland as well.”

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