Guest Blog – Growing older is a gift

Yvonne Castle, new NHC Board member and Chief Executive of Johnnie Johnson Housing

When we talk about our pending crisis of an increasing population in the UK due to ageing we think about: pressure on the NHS; woeful Residential Care (at Southern Cross, winterbourne view and more recently Allied Healthcare), the scale of dementia issues, unmet need and declining real terms funding, the impact of the national living wage, we think about our families and we think about us!

It’s true – where would we want to live when we’re in our 80’s?  What will we be doing?  Will we be well?  Or will we be deteriorating? How will technology help?


Why don’t we look positively at ageing?  That’s where we need to start.  We need a culture that embraces ageing and the opportunity that it provides.

Apparently, we need less sleep as we get older and so that’s more time to enjoy life! We see the world through ‘rose coloured glasses’ as brains are wired to remember the good times. As we age, we become more optimistic – we ‘zone in’ on happy faces and we can build more social connections.

There is lots of support out there – ‘social prescribing’, men in sheds, relaxation classes to manage stress, apps like ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’ can help us to self-manage focus and de-stress too! We are more self-aware and look to creating our legacy by helping others and passing on our wisdom and experience, if you’ve grandchildren – you can enjoy them as if they were your own, but without the frustration… and you have more free time!

So, this is a different way of looking at it for ourselves, for our families, and most importantly for those people that rely on us day-in-day-out to keep them housed, to keep them safe and healthy.

There is some fantastic work out there that we all can do, get involved in, to aspire to, to build and to provide. Here’s a few small examples:

  • New Independent Living Homes and new Care Homes are modern, bright, airy. They encourage small huddles so that people can engage in conversation and activities as they choose. They have playgrounds – both for adults and for children. Local amenities help encourage activity and contact with communities. And communities come in to keep you in touch.
  • Modern, digital telecare equipment means you’re free to go wherever you choose, in the knowledge that help is just a call away and GPS means that a support team knows exactly where you are, it’s also becoming more aspirational and less medical.
  • Telehealth sensors and monitors tell you how you’re doing on an hourly and daily basis helping you to make some choices about your life habits – being proactive so you can avoid that trip to hospital.
  • It is really easy for remote family members to keep in touch and get reassurance that all is ok with you.
  • “Invisible Adaptations” can be fitted when you’re young and used as required – you wouldn’t know that these could help you in and outside of your home – no longer do they scream out “I’m vulnerable and need help”!
  • In an era of digital when we need help, we only need to make one call; our records are shared, and you don’t have to tell your story twice – everyone knows what you need – QUICKLY!
  • Alexa’s a great friend – she’ll tell you about the weather, set you reminders, play your favourite music, order your shopping, book all the appointments you need and help you to learn a new language.

So, what are we waiting for? Growing older is a gift!

As a business we need to make sure that we treat everyone as an individual, with different needs at different times.  No one person responds the same. So, let’s get this culture right in our organisations.  Let’s manage the risks of all the negatives and let’s turn ageing into a positive experience. We’re building new homes, we’re providing services, we’re creating communities – so let’s just check.  Will it work for YOU in the future?”