Supports for ‘Ageing in Place’ - Minister Burke Hears Participant Experiences on a New Local Government Programme
Minister Peter Burke today visited Westmeath County Council to hear about a new co-ordination service that is supporting older people to remain living at home independently. The Healthy Age Friendly Homes Programme is delivered by local government via the Age Friendly Ireland shared service. It is funded by Sláintecare in the Department of Health, aligning with the health reform programme’s mission to provide early intervention and community-based supports.
Under the programme, local co-ordinators visit older people in their homes and help them to access grants and other supports in the areas of housing, health, community services and assistive living technology.
Phase 1 of the programme is operational in nine local authority sites around the country (Dublin City, South Dublin, Fingal, Tipperary, Cork County, Longford, Westmeath, Galway and Limerick). Local co-ordinators develop integrated support plans to enable the older person to remain living independently. The aim is to:
• Improve their housing conditions, for example through adaptations, rightsizing, homesharing, and energy retrofits
• Support overall health and wellbeing through improving access to social, community, transport and technology supports
• Prevent falls and reduce admission to acute settings or residential care
• Reduce the average length of stay [AvLOS] in acute settings by ensuring that the home environment is suitable for discharge from hospital
Minister Burke has described the programme as “a very welcome development in the context of housing for our ageing population. The government’s stated ambition - and mine as Minister with responsibility for housing for older people, is to support older people to live with dignity, to have choice in housing and to have the best possible quality of life in older age. The Healthy Age Friendly Homes Programme is an early intervention that provides direct support to an older person in their home to enable them to continue living independently.”
One of the programme participants Geraldine Murphy, who spoke at a recent Sláintecare webinar, described how the local co-ordinator assisted her: “When the co-ordinator visited me, together we went through what was available to me. We filled in the forms for the personal alarm, in case I fell; I felt a bit safer having that. From that then I applied to the Council for the stairlift application and also for the bathroom. I was very grateful to find out that that was available.”
This new programme, established in 2021, is already demonstrating significant results. By mid-April 2022, the programme had carried out 1,266 assessment visits, with 2,476 actions in progress. One of the main areas of need is for housing adaptation grants. Home adaptations can lead to positive outcomes for the older person, such as a safer, more accessible living environment, reducing the risks of falls and improving warmth and comfort in the home.
The programme evaluation is being undertaken by Maynooth University. The interim evaluation report has identified that many participants experience significant difficulty with activities of daily living [ADLs] such as climbing stairs, walking short distances and standing for long periods. On entry to the programme, 28% of participants reported difficulty using the stairs all of the time; 23% reported difficult with shopping/getting out all of the time, and a further 20% report difficulty sometimes. 21% reported difficulty with bathing or showering all of the time, which suggests that many are living in housing without accessible bathroom facilities. This is a key area that the programme can support through adaptations or rightsizing.
Minister Burke met with the Leas Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council Cllr Bill Collentine, local Healthy Age Friendly Homes Co-ordinators Ann Moran and Mary Carey, programme participants, and local authority staff.
Plans are in progress to scale up to Phase 2 with the intention of covering all local authority areas. Chief Officer of Age Friendly Ireland, Catherine McGuigan commented: “We believe that local government is best placed to deliver this bespoke service to older people in our communities, as there are direct linkages into local authority housing and community departments. Scaling up this programme to all of Ireland will be one of the most significant ways we can prepare for population ageing and realise the Programme for Government’s vision of an Age Friendly Ireland. The programme represents a systemic change in providing support at a very early stage and helping older people to future proof their living environments. This will reduce demand for public spending in acute health care and residential care.”
Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 26/05/2022