A Helping Hand

Dr. Stephen Ladyman is a former Minister for Health responsible for Social Care and Founder of Oak Retirement - the team behind Hampshire’s new luxury retirement village, Friary Meadow. Here, he discusses the mental health benefits of extra-care living.

Finishing work and the thought of retirement can be a daunting prospect for many. Having spent a large number of years being busy and constantly on-the-go, people can oſten feel like they have lost their sense of purpose when they no longer have a job to do.

Additionally, for a lot of people, their years spent in work were also the one time they were surrounded by people on a regular basis. Being suddenly removed from this environment following retirement means some people can find themselves feeling isolated and lonely if they have no family and other friends close by.

It’s no wonder then that retirement – and thoughts of it – can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health as they worry what the future may bring.

The reality of retirement can also bring concerns about money, due to no longer having a regular income and the resulting possibility of needing to downsize. Along with the loss of routine, many people also struggle to cope with the disruption to the life they have built for themselves.

However, the average life expectancy is rising- the number of 85-year-olds in the UK is expected to double by 2026. Given this predicted increase, the desire to remain as independent as possible long into old age is also rising in a bid to tackle a

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number of issues, including the increased risk of poor mental health among older people.

One of the biggest causes of ill-health among elderly people is depression linked to loneliness. This can also be said of people who feel like they’ve lost their sense of identity post- retirement. A landmark study, published in JAMA Network Open, which questioned more than 6,000 people, found that pensioners who feel they have a purpose in life have “double the chance” of enjoying a long retirement.

Yet, moving into the right type of property – in a timely fashion – can have huge personal benefits. Retirement properties, for example, give older people the chance to retain their independence for longer, reduce their financial outgoings and deliver significant health benefits.

Extra-care living offers easy access to communal facilities, encouraging people to meet other people, make friends and socialise, allowing them to carry on life as normal. This feeling of being part of a community therefore means there is a much lower probability of depression linked to loneliness occurring in people living in an extra-care property.

The personal benefits are maximised if the move is made before a person finds themselves struggling. It makes the experience less stressful and the transition easier.

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