One in Eight Residents in Housing Providing Care Have Witnessed Discrimination from Other residents, According to New Research

New report from the University of Bristol and International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC) finds that while most older people in housing with care feel valued and included, social isolation and discrimination remain a part of everyday life for some residents, especially those from social minorities.

The report, based on a survey of residents and interviews with residents, staff members and housing experts, finds that older people living in housing options that provide on-site care and support, including extra-care housing, sheltered housing and supported living, are less lonely than if they were living in the wider community.

This is despite COVID-19 lockdowns restricting interactions between residents and visitors. Most residents taking part in these interviews as part of the Diversity in Care Environments (DICE) study also said they felt valued and included in their living environment.

But this was not the case for all residents, as the majority of the residents from social minorities interviewed in this study, including people with disabilities, people identifying as LGBT+, people from ethnic minorities and members of minority religious groups, said they had experienced or anticipated discrimination within their scheme. This included overhearing homophobic or racist comments from other residents or being excluded from certain areas or activities because of a lack of accessibility.

According to the survey, this discrimination is far more common from other residents than staff; one in every eight residents surveyed reported seeing discrimination from other residents, which was more than twice as many as the proportion reporting discrimination from staff.

The report also identifies some of the ways in which this isolation and discrimination can be countered in housing with care schemes, including on-site staff presence; inclusion with the local area; listening to the views of residents; and adequate Government funding.

Dr Paul Willis, Lead Researcher on the DICE project and Associate Professor at the University of Bristol, commented:

“With an ageing population and a growing number of people living with chronic health conditions, providing safe, supportive and inclusive housing options in which to grow old is becoming more important than ever.

We need to break the ageist stereotypes of older people in retirement communities as vulnerable and passive recipients of services. Their views matter and have given us vital insight into what inclusive neighbourhoods look like and housing providers should tap into this rich resource by involving residents in the design of their schemes and services.

Our research made clear the vital role played by scheme staff in promoting social inclusion and combatting discrimination through their ability to develop relationships with residents. But providers need to ensure there is the consistent presence of on-site staff needed to build this connection.

Older people also need to have the choice to move into a housing option that’s right for their needs and aspirations, and where the identities that are important to them are reflected amongst other residents and staff. This is especially important for older people from social minorities. For this, we need the Government to splash the cash to encourage the creation of more age-friendly housing schemes as well as the improvement of existing schemes.”

Baroness Barker, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Global LGBTI Rights and Housing and Care for Older People, added:

“With one million people aged 65 and over ageing well without children, and the UK’s older population becoming ever more diverse, it’s time for new thinking about how to build supportive, sustainable communities to live in as we get older. This report is an important contribution to that discussion.”

Jeremy Porteus, founder and Chief Executive of project partner, the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (LIN), said:

“While the Housing LIN are thrilled to participate in this innovative project, real credit goes to the participants who shared their experience and the resilient project team for adapting to new ways of working and actively engaging throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The findings of this research demonstrate the strong sense of belonging people have to their homes and local communities and the measures that can be taken to achieve greater inclusivity.”