There’s a buzz around about ‘mixing’ across the generations, bringing benefits to young and old alike. The Channel Four series about the St Monica Trust ‘Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds’ showed the exciting things that happen when children and older residents spend sustained time together, and also made for great viewing. Hospices like St Christopher’s have developed innovative ways to bring young people into close contact with seriously ill people.
Now an important report gets to grips with how more can be done to create places where people of different ages can spend time together, share accommodation and improve quality of life. Produced by the ‘think and do tank’ United for All Ages, and entitled Mixing Matters (PDF), the report calls for a step change in creating opportunities for social engagement, care, and housing to be co-created across generations and in varied sites and locations.
I’ve been thinking about this kind of issue for some time now in relation to housing with care for older people. In ageing populations where the ‘dependency ratio’ puts increasing strain on our ability to meet the health and social care needs that exist in local communities, it is more and more important that we look for novel approaches to the problems we face. One idea is to strengthen the links between housing issues, compassionate communities, and the provision of palliative care.
For me, it all started with the place where I work.
The Crichton Campus is on the edge of the town of Dumfries in rural South West Scotland. It is home to a number of academic, non-profit and business organisations. A landscaped site, with listed buildings, beautiful trees and open spaces, it began life as a psychiatric hospital in the first half of the nineteenth century. It has a hotel, conference and entertainment facilities, a pool and spa, a bistro, café and a non-denominational church. It has become a place of learning, teaching and enterprise as well as somewhere for leisure and relaxation, and it is seen as a key driver of the local economy. It also has a children’s nursery, plans for an outdoor gym, walkways with interpretive signs and a host of activities associated with university and college life.
Could the Campus now find an additional purpose as a place for older people to live, secure in the knowledge they might stay there, even if their care needs were to escalate?
The idea of a ‘Care Campus’ at the Crichton is focussed on adopting new approaches to ageing. It seeks to test out ways of providing housing for older people as well as social and community support with access to care – all combined with innovation in education, skills development and research. Part of its attraction is as a possible model for similar settings elsewhere. The new report from United for All Ages gives a real boost to taking the ‘Care Campus’ idea further, switching it from a slightly whimsical dream, to a policy imperative.
Our evolving vision imagines a community of people accommodated on environmentally sensitive and sustainable lines where residents create an intentional community that is part of the life of the immediate Campus and the wider region. It will be a place providing for a full spectrum of needs – from completely independent ‘retirement’ living, through sheltered accommodation, to long-term and end-of-life care facilities. It will comprise housing to the highest design standards, developed in consultation with those who live there. It will involve residents in the co-production of wellbeing, educational and research activities along with academic partners, as well as to stimulate new knowledge, innovation and replicability, and create opportunities for cross-generational activity through student volunteering, internships, project work and high-quality employment for motivated and committed staff.
In a new paper in the European Journal of Palliative Care written with my colleague Dr Sandy Whitelaw we have sketched the context and details of our proposition. Our next step is to test it out in full through a ‘proof of concept’ project that has just begun. To do this, we are drawing on ideas and inspiration from around the world, and we welcome contact from anyone engaged in similar pursuits.
This post relates to ‘Living well, dying well – the importance of housing’ by David Clark and Sandy Whitelaw that is published in the September/October 2017 edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care (EJPC, (vol. 24 (5), pp.199-202). Thanks to an agreement with Hayward Medical Communications, our article can now be read on open access Living well, dying well – the importance of housing (opens as a PDF).