Nursing home providers have welcomed a call by a junior minister that care for the elderly should be overhauled over the next two decades and retirement villages rolled out.
Minister for Older People Jim Daly said substantial amounts of the estimated €2bn that goes into the care of the elderly could be redirected towards building more retirement villages.
His comments came as a conference in Dublin considered how best to house the elderly, whether it be in adapted homes, new communities or in nursing homes.
Research presented to industry, the public sector and health specialists at the conference showed that the vast majority of people over 65 own their own homes. Furthermore, elderly people like living in their communities. However, home maintenance needs and upkeep demands in properties rise for those aged 70 or older.
Junior housing minister Damien English said the plan was to let people stay in their communities, whether in their own home or other properties. But the government may also consider setting aside land to construct retirement villages.
“We want to roll out an action plan for this in March,” he told the conference.
Other research presented by the Department of Health showed some elderly people's properties had rotten infrastructure, were too big for them while for others it was difficult keeping a home warm.
Home conditions were worst in the cities of Galway and Cork while owners also said cited the cost of upkeep, a lack of a bathroom downstairs and leaks as other problems faced.
Asked about their attitudes to housing options, around 30% said they would move to adapted homes while 70% and more said they would adapt their own property. Only 11% preferred a nursing home.
Mr Daly, speaking to the Irish Examiner, said his preference was to change the model of housing for the elderly from nursing homes to retirement hubs over the next 20 years.
“There's around €2bn, from the private and public sectors, a good amount which could go to these villages.”
Mr Daly pointed to the Kilmaley Retirement Village in Clare, which has operated for 20 years. The village has a primary care centre, a day centre and a meals-on-wheels operation.
Reacting to the alternative housing models, Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Home Ireland, said that the industry was open to suggestions.
“Public policy needs to be ahead of the curve. If the right ones are there, that would help the private sector.”
The nursing home industry chief said people here wanted to stay in their communities, but there was also a need for high-dependency care supplied in a nursing home.
Mr English said public lands could be used to support private ventures, like retirement homes. The cost is considerably different, the two ministers said, noting that it is €1,000 a week in a nursing home and €100 a week in a retirement village.
Michelle Moore and Dermot Bannon, with the Abhaile Project, outlined how elderly people could adapt their homes at a modest cost to create independent living units to rent out.
Mr Bannon said it might cost €45,000 to €50,000 to fit out and adapt a standard semi-detached house in Dublin.