Castleoak, the specialist care developer, has turned to University of Oxford Student Consultancy to understand perceptions of care homes among generation X, Y and Z and what they envisage for future care home environments.
The research partnership seeks to bring younger generations into the conversation in light of accelerated growth of the 85+ population and fears that care has become the ‘forgotten sector’ following failure to address reform as part of the Queen’s speech.
University of Oxford Student Consultancy, a programme for students run by the university to support local organisations, conducted research over an eight-week period which revealed that only one in six (15.7%) respondents have a positive perception of care homes.
Further findings included negative words which were prominently associated with ‘care homes’ including, ‘disabled’, ‘smell’, ‘isolated’, ‘removed’ and ‘cheap’. This contrasted greatly with words younger people wanted to think of in association to places they live as they get older, including ‘independent’, ‘home’ and ‘assisted’.
Following their research, the students made recommendations regarding how future care home environments could change these perceptions. Recommendations included promoting autonomy and individualism as well as moving towards multi-purpose buildings to better connect care homes with the wider community. One recommendation included integrating childcare facilities to overcome the familial challenge associated with rising childcare costs and aging grandparents which could also help older people stay better connected to their families and wider society.
The University of Oxford Student Consultancy also conducted a focus group with some participants to ask them to draw on personal experiences of visiting loved ones in care homes.
The research is the first in a series of projects which Castleoak is partnering with Oxford University Student Consultancy to gain insight into how innovation can be driven in the care sector.
Kate Still, COO at Castleoak, says: “It’s so important to include people from generation X, Y and Z in conversations about care so we don’t continue to be the ‘forgotten sector’.
“If we’re not talking to younger generations they’re never going to give it a second thought and it’s going to continue to be low on the priority list. This is a direct barrier to innovation and to integrating care homes into our communities.
“The average age of a start-up founder is early 40s, so as a sector we need to make sure we’re capturing the hearts and minds of people – like Oxford University students – before they reach this age to ensure we benefit from their talent and ideas.”
The research also revealed some of the key factors that would give people piece of mind about moving into a care home. One in five (50%) cited ‘quality of care’ as the most desired factor, followed by emotionally available staff (28%), having family close by (25%) and autonomy (25%).
Other recommendations from the research included the need to create sustainable environments surrounded by green space and giving residents a sense of ‘going somewhere’ by having facilities that are integrated with the wider community.
Emerging themes were also identified as part of the research, including robotic care homes, AI diagnostics, autonomy-enabling technology and technology usability.
Charlotte Densmore, University of Oxford student who was the research lead for this project, says: “Hearing personal experiences from our participants made it clear that as we get older we don’t stop being the same person. We still want the same things: as much autonomy as possible, with appropriate levels assistance, to be able to express our individualism and live in a place which is our home, not a hotel, and to be genuinely connected with the wider community and with our families. Having access to social activities is important, but they shouldn’t be forced upon anyone.
“We need future care environments to take these things into account when care homes are being located and designed through to when they’re operational.
“I’m really glad that I was able to be a part of delivering this research because I now realise what an important topic it is for younger generations to be debating and I know other participants felt the same.”