Research finds that NHS costs cut by a third in charity’s retirement communities

Wixams at Bedford.  Artist's impression of entrance.
Wixams at Bedford. Artist's impression of entrance.

Care costs are slashed by more than a third and health benefits soar as a result of successfully combining health, social care and housing services for older people, a ground-breaking, three-year study has revealed.

The independent research was commissioned by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust which has received planning permission to develop a retirement village for older people in Wixams, Bedford.

With construction due to begin in 2016 and completion anticipated by the end of 2018, the ExtraCare Village in Bedford will provide 230 apartments for local people aged 55 (and over) on an affordable rent, shared ownership or outright purchase basis.

The ExtraCare Charitable Trust provides homes for more than 4,400 older people in retirement villages and smaller housing developments across the Midlands and North.

The research highlights, for the first time, the benefits of allowing older people to remain independent, while living in a retirement community with on-site support services and strong links into the wider neighbourhood.

The Aston University research studied 195 ExtraCare Charitable Trust residents and non ExtraCare residents at locations across the North and Midlands.

Key findings of the research included:

NHS costs for ExtraCare Charitable Trust residents were cut by 38 per cent over 12 months compared with their costs when they first moved in.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust residents experienced a significant reduction in the duration of unplanned hospital stays from 8 to 14 days to one to two days.

Routine GP appointments for ExtraCare Charitable Trust residents fell 46 per cent after a year.

Numbers of people with clinical levels of depression fell by 64.3 per cent over 18 months.

Measures of depression symptoms were reduced by 14.8 per cent after 18 months for new ExtraCare Charitable Trust residents and those with low mobility showed the greatest improvement in this ‘mood measure’.

The cost of providing higher-level social care was £4,556 less (26 per cent less) per person per year than providing the same level of care in the local community.

In-depth, ‘autobiographical’ memory improved by 10.1 per cent for ExtraCare Charitable Trust residents after 18 months.

The ExtraCare Charitable Trust provides homes for older people in their local area for affordable rent, shared ownership and leasehold sale. Living with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust is affordable for all, including those residents living in a rental home with only a minimum state pension.

Residents live in one or two-bedroom apartments. For many their new homes have meant new friends and a new lease of life. ExtraCare Charitable Trust facilities include libraries, gyms, shops and coffee bars. Activities include everything from IT classes to armchair aerobics and reminiscence groups. Residents are offered health and well-being support, and care is provided where it is needed.

ExtraCare’s award-winning Well-being Service supports residents to be proactive in managing their own health.

Well-being assessments typically cover a range of tests and common conditions, including blood pressure, cholesterol level, urine, diet, fitness, sleep, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Chairman of the trust Martin Shreeve said: “We believe our long-sighted approach to older people’s housing and health pays dividends. We’ve developed this model for more than 25 years and it’s not just another version of ‘sheltered’ or ‘extra-care’ housing. This is unique and it’s the real ‘ExtraCare’- it offers our residents an enriching and independent lifestyle and reduces pressure on the public purse.

“It is time for funders and policy makers to get behind this model which has become so popular with older people and is delivered at a cost that is affordable for the individual and society.”

The three-year study was led by Dr Carol Holland, director of Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA), at Aston University in Birmingham.

Dr Holland said: “The evidence has shown benefits for the full range of older residents, from active healthy people with few health issues through to the very frail. It is an important stepping-stone to a better understanding of how best health, social care and housing professionals can work together to help people enjoy happier and healthier lives in later years, and an improved quality of life for people at whatever stage they find themselves.”