For too long, social care has been at a point of crisis. And the pandemic has intensified an already harsh spotlight on the inadequacy of the support provided to older generations.
My focus below is on the UK because it is my home country, but the problem is international, and as I mention later, the solutions are likely to be international too.
With an increasingly ageing population, growing numbers of people in the UK are living longer and requiring more care and support.
This is a topic that is close to my heart, and a real area of focus for McCarthy Stone. In our recent Vision for Later Life in Britain Report, we explored the opportunities and challenges facing our older people, including the factors that determine quality of life in later years, such as health and social care. The report, based on a poll of 5,000 adults and in-depth interviews with later life experts and some of our elderly homeowners, examines the UK’s attitudes to, and experience of, ageing. It makes immediate calls to action for the Government and wider society to support better ageing for all.
In the research, access to adequate social care and support shone through as a primary concern for many. Over 80% of the British public believe the Government is falling short in delivering what is needed. There is a wide disparity of services and support structures across the UK, creating an unfair ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to the kind of experience people can expect in their later years. This was particularly clear during the pandemic, with older people being most impacted by the lockdowns and requirements to shield.
People’s very mixed experiences of later life is sadly a leading factor in Britain’s shameful 17th place ranking in the best countries in the world to grow old, and the public wants action from the Government to drive positive change.
Step one is building a better understanding of the characteristics, values and lifestyles of today’s older people. 60% of the British public believe the UK has an ageism problem, and almost half (43%) consider the Government is the number one source for driving misunderstanding of later life and, consequently, misrepresentation of the elderly in government policies. Worryingly, over a third (31%) of over 65s feel that such age-based misrepresentation negatively affects their lifestyles and mental wellbeing.
Step two is setting up the funding models to support better later life care. Interestingly our research showed that more than a third (38%) of British adults are prepared to support improvements to later life care and social care initiatives through additional taxation.
In particular, there is a strong national appetite for more and better care, and – perhaps driven by the impact of the pandemic – more funding for those who run residential and nursing care homes. Yet, recent cuts to local authority budgets have made the provision of such facilities unviable, and while family members work hard to fill the gap, they are not the long-term solution.
Wider housing and care options must be made available and accessible, and – in line with my role as Chairman of retirement developer and manager McCarthy Stone – I believe that creating more retirement living environments which help to maintain independence, but also provide on-site care and assistance when needed, is a critical part of improving quality of life in older age.
There are also many more solutions that could play an important role in enhancing later life social and health care, which should be given due recognition and consideration. These include a ‘Now Not Later’ preventative approach to health and social care with regular pre-emptive health checks, and bringing in more support for ‘unofficial’ carers where they help older friends and family – such as offering time off work and pay structures similar to maternity and paternity pay. We can also look to other markets for inspiration, for example Japan and Germany, where they undertake a detailed investigation of insurance options for people as they enter mid to later life, to fund any future social care needs.
As summarised in our research and conveyed through some of the potential care and support solutions outlined above, our priority in the UK should be to trigger interesting thinking and workable ideas. This is why initiatives like the Silver Linings Awards are so important to drive innovation and progression.
Professionals from the worlds of finance, pensions and sustainability can contribute much-needed expertise to creating a more sustainable model that can be financed and delivered with greater efficiency, effectiveness and positive impact. And the awards’ ambition to uncover novel and unique ideas and fuel real investable solutions to provide and finance good long-term care is very much needed.
I’m excited to see fresh thinking and, importantly, viable financial solutions brought to the table through this competition. Ideas that can truly help to transform later life for the better and create positive and sustainable change.
To enter a Business Plan for a £10k winner prize and 2x £5k runner-up prizes , you need to submit a 3000-word entry based on what the judges will be looking for.
Paul Lester is Chairman of McCarthy Stone and a Judge of the Silver Linings Competition