One of the issues that Covid, or rather, the lockdowns brought into sharp relief was loneliness. If you lived alone during that period, or knew someone who did, isolation became a real problem and we have been talking about the metal health fallout of that ever since.
If you are retired and live alone in later years, isolation could be the norm which was only exacerbated in lockdown for you and suddenly highlighted for those who know you. What housing provision is there for elderly people in Frome and how can it be improved upon as our ageing population expands?
Fair Housing for Frome launched a not-for-profit company called Homeshare Mendip which is part of a nationwide model of matching elderly people who have room in their house, with mostly younger people who are looking for somewhere to live. It has shown to be effective in combatting loneliness as both parties benefit from the shared company whilst enabling the older person to stay in their own home. The person moving in offers some kind of help like shopping or gardening and benefits from paying a much lower ‘rent’ than the market rate.
This scheme is still in its early stages in Frome but it demonstrates an alternative view of looking at housing and a way of making the best use of the homes that are already built.
Health, housing and the care of elderly people are strongly linked and many ageing people are nervous of a care system which appears to be crumbling. Frome has The Blue House, an Almshouse, in the centre of the town and other sheltered housing developments which allow for independence and support. More of this type of housing is needed as the population ages so that the best use can be made of the existing housing in the town whilst preventing people from going into care homes unnecessarily.
If we want to think bigger and more creatively about this issue, Holland and Spain are pioneering intergenerational living on a large scale. These schemes are like the Homeshare model in that they serve younger and older people’s housing needs simultaneously but in a purpose-built facility and it’s producing great results. Students looking for affordable accommodation to get them through university are prospering and eating well while the elderly residents are benefiting from the younger company and a bit of IT support!
Our local forward thinking city neighbour Bristol is looking to try out an intergenerational living scheme like those in Alicante, Spain and Deventer, Holland to try to relieve some of the pressure on their housing crisis. Maybe forward-thinking Frome can come up with something similar to relieve the housing and care crisis in our town.
You can contact Fair Housing for Frome at firstname.lastname@example.org and Homeshare Mendip at https://homesharemendip.org/