This month we meet the winners from the National Healthy Housing Awards.
This guide focuses on how Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) can assist older individuals in moving to a new home to improve their quality of life. HIAs have typically helped people to stay put, but they can also play a vital role in supporting older people to move. We will explore the reasons why moving might be beneficial, how to select an appropriate new home, handling financial considerations, and simplifying the moving process.
Assessing the Need for a New Home
When considering helping older people transition to a new home, it’s important to approach the process with sensitivity and understanding. Making the decision to move is significant and can be challenging. Here’s a comprehensive look at assessing the need for a new home, including approaching the conversation and understanding the factors involved:
Approaching the Conversation
Initiating a conversation about moving to a new home requires a delicate approach. Here’s how Home Improvement Agencies can handle this discussion:
1. Choose the Right Time: Find a calm and comfortable setting where you can talk without distractions. Make sure both you and the older person have ample time for the conversation.
2. Be Respectful: Acknowledge that this is a big decision. Approach the conversation with empathy and respect for the older person’s feelings and attachment to their current home.
3. Active Listening: Start by asking open-ended questions. Listen attentively to their concerns, memories, and feelings about their home. This shows that their perspective is valued.
4. Share Information: Provide clear and factual information about the potential benefits of moving to a new home. Highlight how it could enhance their safety, accessibility, and overall quality of life.
5. Involve Them: Empower the older person to be part of the decision-making process. Discuss their preferences, needs, and any worries they may have.
Push and Pull Factors
People are often influenced by a combination of “push” factors (reasons to leave the current home) and “pull” factors (attractions of the new home). Here’s how to consider these factors:
- Health and Safety: If the current home poses risks due to mobility issues or safety concerns, it can be a push factor.
- Maintenance Burden: Older homes might require more maintenance, becoming a source of stress and inconvenience.
- Isolation: Feelings of loneliness due to limited social interactions in the current neighbourhood can encourage the decision to move.
- Lack of Accessibility: A home that isn’t easily accessible can hinder independence.
- Accessibility: A new home with accessible features like ramps and wider doorways can attract older individuals.
- Community and Amenities: Moving to a community with social activities, nearby services, and healthcare facilities can be appealing.
- Safety: A new home equipped with modern safety features can provide peace of mind.
- Simplified Living: A smaller, more manageable living space might be appealing for those looking to downsize.
Recognising the Decision’s Difficulty
Moving to a new home represents a significant life change. Understand and validate the emotions involved:
1. Acknowledge Emotions: Recognize that the older person may have deep emotional connections to their current home. Address any grief or anxiety they may be experiencing.
2. Time for Reflection: Allow them time to process the information and consider their options. Avoid rushing the decision-making process.
3. Family Involvement: Encourage family members to participate in discussions. Their support can provide additional perspectives and emotional assistance.
Remember, this decision isn’t just about the physical move; it’s about preserving dignity, enhancing well-being, and embracing positive change. By approaching the conversation with compassion and understanding the factors at play, Home Improvement Agencies can help older individuals make a decision that aligns with their needs and aspirations.
Should I Stay?
As we age, our needs and circumstances change, making it crucial to re-evaluate our living environment. Maybe the house that was perfect for a young family isn’t as convenient in later life. Stairs can become a challenge, and larger homes can become cumbersome to maintain. On the other hand, the emotional attachment to a family home and the community is also a significant factor that can’t be ignored.
How Our Tool Works
To help navigate these complex decisions, we’ve developed a straightforward tool based on the Pugh Decision Matrix, a tried-and-tested method for making difficult choices easier.
Criteria List: We begin by identifying the factors that are most important to you—this could include home maintenance, proximity to family, healthcare access, and so on.
Scoring: Once you’ve got your list of criteria, you’ll give each one a score based on its importance. For example, if being near your healthcare provider is a must-have, you might give that factor a high score of 9 or 10.
Option Evaluation: Next, you’ll evaluate how well each of your housing options (staying put or moving) meets these criteria, scoring them in the same way.
Totalling Scores: We then calculate the total score for each option. The option with the highest total score is, theoretically, the one that best meets your needs and priorities.
This tool offers a structured yet flexible way to weigh up various factors and help your client come to a well-thought-out decision about their housing options. It puts them in the driving seat but also gives them a structured way to think about their choices.
Hope you find this tool helpful!
Exploring Housing Options
As a Home Improvement Agency, your role in assisting older individuals to find suitable housing options is crucial. In this section, we explore potential housing choices, along with practical tips to navigate the process effectively:
Practical Tips for Exploring Housing Options
Visit in Person: Whenever possible, visit the housing options in person. This provides a better understanding of the environment, facilities, and overall atmosphere.
Check Accessibility: Ensure that the housing options meet the older person’s accessibility needs. Consider factors like step-free entrances, handrails, and elevators.
Location: Consider the location’s proximity to local amenities, healthcare facilities, public transport, and social activities. A convenient location enhances their daily life.
Financial Planning: Understand the costs associated with each housing option. Some types of housing come with significant monthly service charges.
Social Activities: Inquire about the range of social activities and services available within the housing option. Staying socially engaged is vital for well-being.
Future Planning: Consider how well the housing option can accommodate potential changes in the older person’s health and mobility. Flexibility is important.
Consult an Occupational Therapist: If health considerations are prominent, consult an OT for their input on the most suitable housing options.
Speak to Current Residents: If possible, talk to current residents about the housing options. Their experiences can provide valuable insights into daily life and satisfaction.
Legal Matters: If needed, seek legal advice when reviewing tenancy agreements or contracts to ensure the older person’s rights are protected.
By guiding older individuals through the process of exploring housing options in the UK, Home Improvement Agencies can play a pivotal role in helping them find a comfortable and supportive living environment that aligns with their needs and preferences.
Understanding Housing Options
Retirement Communities: These communities offer independent living in a supportive environment. They often provide amenities like communal spaces, social activities, and on-site support services.
Assisted Living Facilities: These facilities offer a higher level of support, including personal care and assistance with daily tasks. They are suitable for individuals who need more help with activities of daily living.
Sheltered Housing: These are self-contained properties with added security features and communal areas. They provide a sense of community while maintaining independence.
Extra Care Housing: A blend of independent living and care support, these housing options offer on-site care services tailored to individual needs.
Accessible Apartments: Apartments that are designed with accessibility features such as ramps, wider doorways, and adapted bathrooms for those with mobility challenges.
Assisting older individuals in moving to a better home involves careful financial planning. As a Home Improvement Agency, your guidance on financial matters can make a significant difference. Here’s a comprehensive look at the financial considerations involved, along with practical guidance to support your efforts:
Understanding Financial Aspects
Selling the Current Home: If the individual owns their current home, consider the potential sale value. Engage with estate agents to determine a realistic selling price.
Purchasing or Renting: Explore the costs associated with purchasing a new home or renting. Consider one-time expenses such as down payments, legal fees, and moving costs.
Mortgages and Equity Release: If purchasing, explore mortgage options suitable for older individuals. In some cases, equity release schemes might be considered to release funds from the current home.
Financial Assistance Programs: Research available grants and financial assistance programs for older individuals in the UK. The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) can be particularly relevant for home adaptations.
Practical Guidance on Financial Matters
Budgeting: Help the individual create a comprehensive budget that covers all potential costs, including moving expenses, legal fees, and any renovations required in the new home.
Financial Assessment: Conduct a financial assessment to determine the older person’s eligibility for grants or welfare benefits. This can significantly ease the financial burden.
Consultation: Collaborate with financial advisors who specialise in retirement planning. They can provide tailored advice on managing finances during this transition.
Equity Release Explained: If considering equity release, ensure the individual fully understands the implications and potential long-term effects on their estate and inheritance. A financial advisor is likely to be required.
Legal Support: Offer guidance on legal matters related to property transactions. Connect them with solicitors who specialise in property law and understand the unique needs of older individuals.
Benefits Check: Encourage the older person to check their eligibility for benefits such as Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance, or Housing Benefit. These benefits can help cover ongoing living costs.
Careful Documentation: Assist in keeping clear records of all financial transactions, contracts, and agreements. This documentation is essential for future reference and accountability.
Transparent Communication: Ensure the older person fully understands the financial aspects of the move. Transparency is key to making informed decisions.
Planning for the Future: Help them consider long-term financial implications, such as ongoing living expenses, potential care costs, and any adjustments needed in the new home.
Collaboration: Work closely with family members or carers involved in financial decisions. Their input can provide a holistic view of the older person’s financial situation.
By providing practical financial guidance, Home Improvement Agencies can help older individuals navigate the complexities of moving to a better home. Your support in budgeting, exploring financial assistance, and making informed decisions contributes to a smoother transition and an improved quality of life.
- Selling the Current Home: Zoopla’s Guide on Selling Your Home
- Purchasing or Renting: Which? Guide to Buying vs. Renting
- Mortgages and Equity Release: Money Advice Service on Equity Release
- Financial Assistance Programs: UK Government’s Disabled Facilities Grants
Practical Guidance on Financial Matters:
- Budgeting: Citizens Advice on Budgeting
- Financial Assessment: Age UK’s Guide to Benefits and Entitlements
- Consultation: Society of Later Life Advisors
- Equity Release Explained: Age UK on Equity Release
- Legal Support: Law Society’s Find a Solicitor Tool
- Benefits Check: Turn2Us Benefits Calculator
- Planning for the Future: Later Life Planning – Money Advice Service
Age-Friendly Features in a New Home
As a Home Improvement Agency, your expertise in identifying age-friendly features within a new home is invaluable. Ensuring the new living space is well-suited for ageing individuals requires careful consideration of various factors. This section is about recognising and ensuring age-friendly features, along with practical tips to create an environment where the older person can comfortably age in place:
Evaluating Age-Friendly Features
Single-Story Living: Consider homes with single-level layouts to eliminate the need for navigating stairs.
Open Floor Plan: Opt for open floor plans that provide unobstructed movement between rooms.
Wide Doorways: Look for homes with wider doorways to accommodate mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers.
Step-Free Entry: Prioritise homes with step-free entrances to minimise tripping hazards.
Accessible Bathroom: Check for bathrooms with grabrails, non-slip flooring, and walk-in showers for easy accessibility.
Lever Handles: Identify homes with lever-style door handles and taps for ease of use.
Good Lighting: Inspect homes with ample and well-placed lighting to enhance visibility and reduce fall risks.
Non-Slip Flooring: Look for non-slip flooring materials in key areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
Elevators or Stairlifts: If multi-level, consider homes with elevators or stairlifts to ensure access to all areas.
Safe Outdoors: Examine outdoor spaces for even pathways, non-slip surfaces, and well-maintained gardens.
Thinking about the future
Accommodating Furniture: Ensure the new home can accommodate existing furniture while maintaining spacious pathways.
Natural Light: Prioritise homes with ample natural light to promote a cheerful and well-lit environment.
Low Maintenance: Look for homes with low-maintenance features, such as easy-to-clean surfaces and minimal landscaping.
Community Access: Consider homes located near public transportation, medical facilities, and community centres for convenient access.
Smart Home Features: Investigate homes with smart home technologies that offer remote control of lighting, security, and temperature.
Adequate Storage: Ensure the new home has sufficient storage space at easily reachable heights.
Senior Move Managers
The concept of Senior Move Management emerged in the United States in the early 2000s, recognising a gap in the market for specialised relocation services catered to the unique needs of older adults. As the population aged, it became apparent that traditional moving services often fell short of addressing the emotional and logistical complexities of downsizing or transitioning to assisted living environments. The National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) was founded in 2002 to standardise the profession and ensure quality of service.
A Senior Move Manager specialises in assisting older adults with the emotional and logistical aspects of relocating. They offer personalised moving plans that include decluttering, packing and unpacking, coordinating with other services like cleaners or estate sales, and emotional support. They act as a family liaison to ensure smooth communication and even provide follow-up care to make sure the individual is comfortably settled in their new home. Overall, they offer a comprehensive, stress-reducing service tailored to the unique needs of older individuals.
- NASMM: https://www.nasmm.org/
Planning and Coordination for a Smooth Move
If your client does decide to move, then your role as an HIA in helping older individuals plan and coordinate their move is pivotal. A well-organised moving process can reduce stress and ensure a successful transition. This section covers planning and coordination, along with practical tips to facilitate a smooth move:
Creating a Moving Timeline:
Start Early: Begin planning as soon as the decision to move is made. The more time available, the smoother the process will be.
Break It Down: Divide the moving process into smaller tasks. This makes the overall process more manageable and reduces stress.
Set Dates: Assign specific dates to each task on the moving timeline. Having clear deadlines helps everyone stay on track.
Packing and Decluttering:
Sort Items: Help the individual categorise their belongings into keep, donate, and discard piles. Decluttering can make the packing process easier.
Prioritise Essentials: Pack a separate box with essential items like medications, toiletries, and important documents. This box should be easily accessible during and after the move.
Label Clearly: Label boxes with their contents and the room they belong to. This simplifies unpacking in the new home.
Hiring Moving Services:
Obtain Quotes: Get quotes from reputable moving companies well in advance. Compare prices and services to make an informed decision.
Confirm Dates: Once a moving company is selected, confirm the moving date and details. Ensure they are aware of any special requirements or considerations.
Coordinate Services: If the individual needs help with assembling furniture or unpacking at the new home, coordinate these services in advance.
Notifying Relevant Parties:
Change of Address: Help the older person notify important parties about the change of address, including banks, healthcare providers, and utilities.
Redirect Mail: Arrange for mail forwarding with the local post office to ensure important documents reach the new address.
By providing practical guidance and support throughout the planning and coordination process, Home Improvement Agencies can help older individuals experience a successful and stress-free move. Your expertise in creating timelines, organising tasks, and addressing logistical challenges contributes to a positive transition to their new home.
Resisting a Move
Older people often resist a move because restraining forces often have a disproportionately powerful impact on the decision-making process for a few key reasons:
Deeply Rooted Emotional Factors: Sentimental attachments to a home built over years or even decades can be incredibly compelling and hard to let go of.
Risk Aversion: As people age, they often become more cautious and resistant to change. The “better the devil you know” mentality can make staying put seem like the safer option.
Complexity: Older people may find the multifaceted process of moving overwhelming, which naturally deters action.
Social and Psychological Comfort: Familiar surroundings, neighbours, and routines offer a level of comfort and predictability that can be hard to give up.
The Important Role of a HIA
A Home Improvement Agency (HIA) can serve as a comprehensive support system for older people considering home changes or moves. It can offer more than just logistical help, addressing emotional and psychological factors that often act as strong restraining forces. The HIA can guide individuals through financial planning, offer practical help like packing, and even provide ongoing support after the move. They can work in collaboration with other professionals to give well-rounded care.
Providing Emotional Support During the Move
Moving to a new home is not just a physical transition—it’s an emotional journey. As a Home Improvement Agency, offering emotional support to older individuals during this time can make a significant difference in their well-being. This section is about providing emotional support, along with practical tips to help them cope with the challenges of the move:
Acknowledging Emotional Challenges
Addressing Attachments: Understand that the individual may have emotional attachments to their current home due to memories and experiences.
Fear of the Unknown: Moving to a new environment can trigger feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about what lies ahead.
Loss of Familiarity: Leaving behind a familiar neighbourhood and social connections can lead to feelings of loss and isolation.
Practical Tips for Emotional Support:
Open Communication: Encourage the individual to express their feelings about the move. Listen actively and without judgment to create a safe space for discussion.
Celebrate Memories: Help them celebrate the positive memories associated with their current home. Encourage reminiscing and storytelling.
Virtual Tours: If possible, use technology to virtually tour the new home or neighbourhood. Familiarity can help ease the transition.
Positive Anticipation: Highlight the benefits of the new home, such as accessibility features, social opportunities, and improved quality of life.
Support System: Remind the individual of their support system, including family, friends, and community connections, that will remain with them.
Stay Connected: Help them stay connected with loved ones during the move. Virtual communication can bridge the gap during the transition.
Self-Care: Encourage self-care practices, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and engaging in hobbies, to manage stress and emotions.
Unpacking Together: If possible, involve the individual in the unpacking process. It helps them feel a sense of ownership and familiarity in the new space.
Explore the Community: Once settled, guide them in exploring the new community. Visiting local shops, parks, and community centres can foster a sense of belonging.
Patience and Adjustment: Remind them that adjusting to a new home takes time. Encourage patience as they adapt to the changes.
By providing practical tips for emotional support, Home Improvement Agencies can be instrumental in helping older individuals navigate the emotional aspects of moving to a new home. Your empathetic approach, active listening, and guidance contribute to a smoother emotional transition and improved overall wellbeing.
Focus on Possibilities: Emphasise the possibilities and new experiences that the new home can offer.
Creating New Memories: Encourage the individual to embrace the opportunity to create new memories and connections in their new environment.
Professional Support: If needed, consider connecting them with professional counsellors or therapists who specialise in helping individuals navigate life transitions.
Help To Move Pilots
Two regions explored innovative approaches, with the assistance of Taylor Wimpey, to assist elderly individuals in determining if relocating to a new residence would enhance their autonomy, health, and overall quality of life.
The initiatives were founded on the ‘senior move manager’ methodology, which has significantly transformed the perception of downsizing in North America over the past two decades.
This stems from a survey conducted by Foundations, revealing that a third of older individuals are discouraged from relocating due to the perceived stress associated with it. Additionally, over 10% (11%) expressed a willingness to move if adequate support were accessible.
In West Yorkshire, Calderdale Council introduced a caseworker within its Accessible Homes Agency to provide guidance to individuals contemplating a change of residence. This initiative facilitated an expansion of the council’s efforts to increase the availability of adapted housing.
WE Care Home Improvements, a home improvement agency serving four local authority regions in the West of England, unveiled an enhanced housing options service catering to those seeking to relocate or who could no longer remain in their current dwellings. Furthermore, they introduced an innovative self-help tool aimed at furnishing individuals with the necessary information to make informed decisions about either modifying their existing homes or pursuing a new residence.
The pilot programmes implemented a critical recommendation derived from the Government-commissioned assessment of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) by introducing greater flexibility in its utilisation. Typically, DFGs are employed to finance adaptations aimed at enabling individuals to continue residing in their current homes. However, in situations where this isn’t feasible, the resources can be redirected to facilitate a transition to a more suitable residence elsewhere.
Finding new ways to support potential downsizers is explored in a briefing paper by Foundations: ‘Housing Options, Downsizing, Move On Services’. It highlights the fact that the more choice and control older people can exercise, the better the outcomes in terms of health and wellbeing. It adds: “…conversely we do know that ‘forced’ moves, made because older people can no longer cope in their original home, tend not to have positive outcomes.” England’s 200 home improvement agencies are ideally placed to provide that support because it’s a natural extension of their current work.
The report concludes: “There is a genuine opportunity to allow people to consider housing options unforced by a perceived or actual health crisis but based on their aspirations for a fulfilling life in the medium and long-term. There is no reason that people’s last house should be any less exciting than finding their first.”
Download the Help to Move Report.
Settling into the New Home and Building Connections
As a HIA, your support doesn’t end with the move itself. Assisting older individuals in settling into their new homes and fostering connections within the community is essential for their well-being. This section looks at facilitating a smooth transition and promoting community engagement, along with practical tips to ensure a positive start in the new environment:
Navigating the Initial Phase:
Unpacking Strategically: Begin by unpacking essential items, making the transition to the new home smoother.
Creating a Comfortable Space: Help arrange furniture and belongings to create a familiar and comfortable living environment.
Exploring the Neighbourhood: Encourage short walks to explore the new neighbourhood, identifying local amenities and meeting neighbours.
Practical Tips for Building Connections
Community Centres: Research local community centres or libraries where the individual can participate in activities and meet peers.
Social Events: Inquire about local social events, workshops, or classes that align with the individual’s interests.
Joining Clubs: Look into clubs or groups related to hobbies, interests, or sports that provide opportunities for social interaction.
Volunteer Opportunities: Suggest volunteering as a way to connect with others while contributing to the community.
Neighbourhood Gatherings: Attend neighbourhood meetings, events, or gatherings to introduce the individual to their new neighbours.
Engaging Online: Explore online forums or social media groups related to the local community to connect with like-minded individuals.
Supporting the Transition
Regular Check-ins: Continue to maintain regular contact with the individual to assess their adjustment and address any concerns.
Encouraging Patience: Remind the individual that building connections takes time and encourage them to be patient with the process.
Speak to our Regional Advisors
Our team of Regional Advisors are at the heart of what we do – providing advice and support to Local Authorities and Home Improvement Agencies. And because we’re funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities our everyday support is free of charge.
Whether it’s a question about the DFG legislation, you need advice on how to commission a HIA or anything in between – we’re here to help.