Cork County Council is to draw up plans to create more sheltered housing in towns and villages, thus providing suitable accommodation for a rapidly-aging population.
Michael Lynch, the council's director of planning, said specialised housing for older people will for the first time be addressed with policy enshrined in the upcoming review of the County Development Plan.
He was responding to a motion from Cllr Marcia D'Alton who said it is vital such infrastructure is built now as Ireland is several years behind other European countries in terms of addressing this issue.
She said she wanted an assessment of sheltered housing for the elderly, both public and private, currently available in each town in the county and that, arising from this assessment, the council would adopt a number of policies aimed at creating more such projects into the future.
Cllr D'Alton pointed out that the last Census in 2016 showed an increase of more than 19% in people aged over 65. There was also a 15.6% increase in the number of people aged over 85.
“This is a huge success story in terms of lifestyle and health, but our national and local policies must recognise the implications of this demographic shift and start planning for it now so that we can as a nation embrace rather than fear growing older. Research carried out by the charity Alone found that 49% of people aged 60 live alone, more than half in private homes. Of those almost 59% live in a house with five rooms or more,” she said.
Cllr D'Alton said research undertaken in 2017 showed some of those living in nursing homes reported they moved there because they were alone and could not or did not want to manage their own home any longer.
“Older people want to age in their local area, but without a choice of appropriate housing, many cannot. That housing needs to be offered across a spectrum, open to all older people, regardless of whether they qualify for social housing or whether they can avail of private options. It needs to include both purpose-built homes, dispersed in the community and dedicated sheltered housing,” Cllr D'Alton said.
She said she was glad a policy would be created in the forthcoming County Development Plan, which forms the blueprint for future development in Cork from 2020 - 2026.
Cllr Kevin Conway said Ireland was at least “10 years behind” what is being done to address the situation in Britain.
He said he recently met an 80-year-old widower who wanted to sell his house and move into sheltered accommodation. He said this would free-up larger houses for younger families and it made absolute sense in the face of the national housing crisis.
“This needs to foremost in our minds to provide safe and secure accommodation for our elderly people, There are many people living in large houses who can't afford Local Property Tax and would gladly downsize,” Cllr Seamus McGrath said.
Cllr Ian Doyle said there are sites within easy walking distance of county towns which should be acquired now.