Is Multi-Generational Living the Future of Care?

Louise Drew, Partner and Head of Building Communities at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, proposes the idea of a multi-generational approach to care environments and whether this holds the answer to better care in the future.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on care homes, highlighting that a more modern approach may be needed in order to protect the elderly in the long term. Multi-generational living could be the answer, with younger people being able to improve the elderly’s quality of life, whether by providing practical support or simply companionship.

The social element of care homes is vital for reducing feelings of loneliness and improving wellbeing. However, many homes’ communal design has been their downfall during the pandemic. COVID-19 has been proven to be a silent killer, with those who appear to be healthy in fact being asymptomatic carriers of the virus. In such close quarters, this has unfortunately led to the virus being unknowingly passed on to many vulnerable people in a short space of time.


For years, the UK’s approach to later living has remained largely the same. Until now, that has seemingly not been a problem, but the pandemic has shown that changes need to be made in order to keep the elderly safe.

One simple change could revolve around flexible working policies at care homes. Working from home has been a common occurence for some time now, especially in regard to stopping the spread of illness. However, COVID-19 has highlighted just how vital the option to work remotely is.

Undoubtedly, this is more difficult for the care industry, with workers needing to be hands on when completing many of their daily tasks. Whilst healthy carers will still have to come into homes to provide nursing and support services, those who have been ill and are in recovery could be encouraged to take on temporary, non-contact, home-based roles whilst they are self-isolating. For example, administration jobs could be

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done from home, allowing carers to support the home without endangering residents and colleagues.

Technology is another area that needs to be explored further by care homes. Shielding vulnerable people – like many care home residents - during the COVID-19 pandemic is a necessary part of protecting others, but people must not feel cut-off from the outside world. Investing in technology, such as tablet computers, and offering basic lessons on how to use them, can keep residents in touch with each other and loved ones, making the isolation process easier.

In fact, the Government recently announced it would be giving 11,000 iPads to care homes for this reason, which should go some way to making residents feel less alone during the pandemic and aſterwards.


Social distancing has become a normal part of daily life, being an essential way to help control the spread of the virus. As such, care homes may need to reconsider layouts to minimise face-to-face crossover at times of increased illness, with one-way systems introduced in corridors and separate entry and exit points created.

In care homes where dedicated one-way systems aren’t possible, wider corridors can also help to keep people a safe distance apart. However, older buildings or converted homes might not have this option, meaning a ‘one at a time’ arrangement would have to be used instead.

Communal areas should also be laid out in a way that promotes social distancing, such as only having single person chairs available and positioning them in a way that lessens face-to-face contact.

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