Many services are available to help older people living in their own homes, from home helps, meals on wheels, community wardens and home improvement agencies to emergency alarms, entry-phones and security systems. If all these measures were known about and available to any older person who needed them, many of the problems they face might be solved.
Equally, new forms of sheltered housing have evolved, able to support older people with much greater levels of frailty and ill health than before, whilst still enabling and encouraging independence. However to take advantage of these requires moving, as well as making increasingly complex choices between alternatives.
To move or not to move
In young old age, some people may make moves for a whole range of positive reasons and subsequently enjoy many happy and fulfilling years in their new homes.
In older old age push factors assume greater importance as people are faced with reduced physical ability, static or reducing income, bereavement, loneliness and growing vulnerability to crime and accidents in the home. They may be tempted to move to somewhere cheaper and easier to run, more suitably designed or located and offering more human company, more security from crime and reassurance in case of an accident.
The problem of choosing
It is more difficult for people to make housing choices in later life because of the uncertainties around personal circumstances and the availability of support. Decisions may be made in response to a crisis and without adequate information or time to reflect. For some people it is also physically difficult to search out or go to look at possible options, and they may have to depend on someone else to help them. The sort of property they require may not exist or be affordable, and in any event, they may be unable to find out about it. Finally, there is the key issue of whether a move would solve their problems or turn out to be a mistake.
HOOP is a technique for appraising options, and incorporates 2 main elements:
a comprehensive assessment of your current housing;
identification of any information you need about possible solutions or alternatives.
It takes the form of a questionnaire, asking you to focus in turn on different aspects of your home situation – size, condition, comfort, location, managing, costs and so on. It is designed for use by older people themselves, or working with an advisor.
Either way, HOOP will help you identify what information you need, and help you find it. It may also make you aware that some advice or other help would be welcome, and if so, will guide you to the most appropriate agency to provide this.