Last week on leap day I joined Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA) for their conference on 'Later Life Matters'. I was on stage with Alison Holt, who spoke movingly of people who have suffered extremely poor care in homes investi-gated by Panorama; and Esther Rantzen, who shared the story of Bob, a widow who felt sad and lonely after many years of happy marriage, but who found hope talking to The Silver Line, a confidential helpline providing infor-mation, friendship and advice for older people. I shared the story of my own grandfather, Fred, who was cared for by MHA in the last 18 months of his life. Fred was born in 1915. He worked as a lab technician in Manchester until he retired at 63. In 1970, eight years before he retired, he and my grandmother Doris moved to a new bungalow in 1970 in the village of Diggle. They lived there for more than 25 years. The bungalow suited them. Fred enjoyed the garden, growing fruit for his rather notorious home-made wine. They got in-volved in the local church and made friends with their neighbours. When Fred needed a hip replacement he was able to get around easily on return from hospital.
When Fred was 82, having been widowed three years earlier, it became more difficult for him to manage. He was lonely and began to forget things. He was a proud man and was not ready to accept help. My Dad felt he was no longer safe living on his own. Somewhat reluctantly he agreed to move closer to his half brother Sam who lived in Blackpool. He moved to an Abbeyfield home where he had meals made for him and had more company. Uncle Sam and his friend Elsie were very kind to Fred and took him out regularly. But it was clear that his memory was deteriorating as he developed dementia. Mum and Dad decided to move him closer to them into a residential home in Ilkley but the environment wasn't stimulating or designed for people with dementia.
When Kitwood House opened at Glen Rosa (an MHA care home in Ilkley) my family were delighted and Fred was able to move in. The purpose-built de-mentia facility and the model of care was based on the philosophy of Thomas Kitwood, which puts love at the centre. The other dimensions are comfort, identity, attachment, occupation and inclusion. Kitwood House provided him with a safe and loving environment in which to live out his days. He died peacefully there.
His story illustrates the importance of the environment in which we live: our home, our neighbourhood and the communities we live in and how our needs change through different stages of our later life depending on our health and need for care and support.
The Centre for Ageing Better's research with Ipsos MORI includes more stories and insights into the role homes and neighbourhoods play in enabling us to have a good later life.. Ageing Better wants more people to feel in control even as they face increasing difficulties with daily living due to ill health, cog-nitive decline or disability. We want to create better places to grow old in which everyone can feel involved, connected, remain active and healthy, get around without difficulty, and access services and facilities. As my grandfa-ther's story shows where we live and the care we receive can make an enor-mous difference to our quality of life.
Ageing Better will build and share the evidence. We will find innovative solu-tions and test them. We will challenge some of the assumption and myths with data and analysis. But we will achieve so much more by working with others to implement changes.
To find out more about our work on Homes and Neighbourhoods click here.