Retirement village plan to house rural OAPs
Ministers back independent living initiative
New State-funded elderly friendly villages are being considered as part of a radical new plan to house older people who face living out their later years in nursing homes.
The purpose-built retirement villages would be constructed by local authorities in consultation with the HSE and other agencies to ensure medical and social services are readily available to residents.
The developments would also be built around local amenities to ensure residents have a social outlet through access to community services.
The move is aimed at giving older people, especially those living is rural isolation, the option of moving to a community setting where they can live independently rather than nursing homes.
Residents would be encouraged to sell their homes and move into the rented accommodation through a financial incentive. There are a number of retirement villages around the country but the new plan would involve a multi-agency approach to developing housing estates which would specifically house older residents.
It is hoped the strategy would ease the burden on both the health service and the nursing home sector which has come under intense strain due to the country's ageing demographic.
The proposal is being developed by Minister of the Elderly Jim Daly and Minister of State at the Department of Housing Damien English.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent Mr Daly said there needs to be "another real alternative" for older people living in isolation other than moving into nursing homes.
"This can be done by making it more attractive for those who are willing to make the move from their private residence to more appropriate settings that can provide real quality of daily life by being integrated into a community setting, being close to local shops, church, post office and libraries," he said.
"There will always be a place for nursing home care, however I believe much more can be done to allow people to live independently in a supported setting for much longer than they are at the moment," he said.
Mr Daly wrote to Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin seeking his assistance to organise a national conference on housing for older people with a view to developing a national strategy.
In the letter, which has been seen by the Sunday Independent, the minister said he was not satisfied by the "current ad hoc approach" to developing housing for older people.
"While much of the criterion for developing housing projects that are funded by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government focus on planning and engineering issues that would apply to any residential development, I am concerned that there is not enough emphasis on the lived experience for the resident," Mr Daly said.
He said there needed to be a greater focus by local authorities on the services available to residents when they build developments.
He said services such as day-care, meals on wheels, GP cover and home help should be considered, and the vicinity to churches, shops and other community services should be at the fore of the decision-making process when developing housing for the elderly.
"I want there to be more than blocks and mortar considered by local authorities when planning applications are received for such developments," he added.