Retirement living models

Multi-generational living: a necessary next step?

Louise Drew, managing director of infrastructure and specialist markets at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, makes the case for a multi- generational alternative to traditional care homes

With thousands of UK care homes infected with Covid-19, it has never been more important to seriously consider the benefits of a multi-generational living approach.

It is well known that the elderly prosper from having younger people around them, whether it be to provide help and support, or just as someone to talk to. The pandemic could be what triggers the industry to move away from separating generations, and instead explore a more modern approach to later life living and care.

The communal design of standard care homes means it is no surprise that they have been hit hard by the virus. Usually, this social aspect is important for the wellbeing of residents, allowing them to create friendships and reduce feelings of loneliness.

However, due to the incubation period of Covid-19 being up to two weeks, and the fact that the severity of the virus varies hugely between different people, it can be a silent killer. Care homes might not be aware that the virus is present, leading to residents not being isolated quickly enough and Covid-19 being passed from person to person within a matter of days.

Times are a-changing

For the care industry, this pandemic may highlight certain areas that need an update. For many years, retirement living has functioned in largely the same way with a number of set processes. After all, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, the high levels of tragic deaths that the UK has seen in care homes since the pandemic began suggests that,


perhaps, there is something broken. It is natural to be cautious of change, but when it comes to saving the lives of the country’s vulnerable people, taking a different approach to care needs to be considered thoroughly.

Even before the pandemic, businesses were beginning to look at the potential that working from home holds when it comes to stopping the spread of disease. Rather than have people come into the office when they feel ill, but well enough to work, many employees now have the option to work from home instead. Although carers will not be able to do that in exactly the same way, care homes could still encourage staff to take on non- contact jobs, such as administration, while they are ill. By having a temporary non-contact role while they recover, carers can continue to support the

The pandemic could be what triggers the industry to move away from separating generations

running of the home without putting residents in danger of illness.

Other processes that need to change involve the use of technology. Isolation is a vital part of slowing the spread of most diseases, so it is important to find a way to isolate people without making them feel alone. Investing in technology, such as tablet computers, can ensure residents are able to stay in touch with loved ones and each other, while keeping themselves and other people safe. Lessons on how to use the technology may be necessary, but even a knowledge of the basics is enough to lessen loneliness.

Many modern care homes do already have some form of tablet in each resident’s room, allowing them to let family members into the building and communicate with each other. As such, it could just be a case of installing certain applications to these tablets, for both entertainment and communication. However, for older care homes, it may be more difficult to introduce technology on a wide scale. Looking into the installation of fast wifi and the purchase of cheap, but functional, tablets could be a good first step to take.

Finding a suitable set-up As well as processes, the layout of care homes may also need to be considered – • July 2020

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