With the rise of what is fast becoming known as a loneliness epidemic among the elderly, alternative methods of care are being explored by researchers to prevent a rapidly aging population from feeling isolated.

One such suggestion, from the think tank the International Longevity Centre (ILC), is the introduction of US style retirement villages, which have far higher levels of community than traditional care homes, according to a recent survey. Retirement villages target those who are considering downsizing and are designed to be practical for those in early retirement, while allowing for adaptations to be made later on in life.

The survey from the ILC found that 81.7 per cent of those in retirement communities hardly ever felt isolated, in contrast to the third of those living in their own homes in the UK who do. The appeal of this new proposal extends beyond the reduction of loneliness, increasing residents’ sense of independence and freedom.

Considering new ways of offering social care is crucial in addressing the challenges facing our ageing population, which include an overworked NHS and rising care home costs. This latest research indicates the way alternatives, such as retirement villages, can improve the quality of life and have a positive impact on loneliness and considering.

Another approach for policymakers to consider is the role that community care could play in tackling loneliness – a topic Prestige Nursing + Care examined in a previous blog.  Recent research from Prestige, also found the average cost of a care home now exceeds £29,000. With such huge costs associated with it, alternative cheaper options should also be considered. One such solution is home care. Like retirement homes, this boosts feelings of independence and can act as a preliminary means of care before a more permanent solution is required. It is also typically much cheaper and, when combined with services like community care, could reduce feelings of loneliness too.

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It is great to see people are starting to examine alternative options available to elderly people, a topic that clearly needs more discussion and innovation. However, proposals regarding retirement villages are still in their early stages and only time will tell if it could offer a viable – or popular – solution to a strained elderly care sector.