Minister plans supported housing for the elderly

A new supported model of housing for the elderly is being developed by the minister of state for older people, Jim Daly.

Mr Daly is working with the Department of Health and the Department of Housing to provide community-focused hub developments for elderly people which would be serviced by the HSE.

“We are going to have to look at a stepdown model of care with the Department of Housing and the Department of Health where you would have housing for the elderly with supports on site such as day centres, meal-on-wheels, those kind of things,” he said. “We must give older people a choice that it isn’t a case of home or the nursing home. We must create an in-between.”

Mr Daly’s plans would mean that, as part of planning, there would be a mandatory requirement on the HSE to commit to providing services to residences of these developments before they are built.

It is hoped that elderly people living in rural or isolated houses would be encouraged to move into these new supported settlements as unlike a nursing home they would still have a “key to their own house” and would have significantly more independence.

Mr Daly said: “At the moment, if you wanted to invest in care of the elderly and if you walked into the local authority and asked them what’s the model there, there is none there.

“If I wanted to invest in the fastest-growing industry in Ireland, care of the elderly, what would I invest in? A nursing home and that is it.

“We need to look at developing housing models with supports on site. I would say there should even be a creche on site to have an intergenerational element.”

Crucially, the houses would be rented out either to a local authority or the person living in them, meaning the development would always remain as a supported development and units would be rented out to other older people once they became free.

Mr Daly said he recently visited a development with 24 units in Kilmaley, Co Clare, which could become the blueprint for similar elderly housing villages across the country.

He said: “On site, they have a primary care centre, they have a day centre, they have a meals-on-wheels operation, but they told me — which is really interesting — that in 20 years that they have been there, nobody ever went from this supported assisted living to a nursing home. They either died there in their homes or died in an acute hospital, nobody went into a nursing home from it.

“So that suggests there is a better way of doing things.”

Mr Daly and junior housing minister Damien English will be holding a seminar on this in September

“The objective is to have an ideal model or models of housing for the elderly designed by the end of the year,” said Mr Daly.

“Currently, they are being built, people are being put into them but that’s it. What we need to get is housing and health joined together and they haven’t been heretofore,” he said.