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October 16, 2010

Older People With High Support Needs - How to Empower Them (UK)

October 15th, 2010

By Imogen Blood
There is a growing number of diverse groups of older people with high support needs. Improvements in life expectancy mean that people aged 85 and over are the fastest growing age group in the population. The author looks at the different groups and the form of support they need. It was written as part of the JRF programme A Better Life.
Viewed from a social model of disability, an older person who is physically frail, has a chronic condition or multiple impairments, could have low support needs if they live in accessible housing with enabling technology, within a supportive community.
A complex combination of medical, social and personal circumstances therefore triggers the point at which we might need support; whether or not these needs are assessed will be shaped by our access to information, referral or signposting. How much support we are at this point deemed to need is then further shaped by budgets, eligibility criteria and, in the case of older people, ageist assumptions.

The emerging evidence base
There is relatively little evidence that captures what older people with high support needs want and value. Where their views have been sought (e.g. Bowers, 2009; Katz, forthcoming) or where broader discussions have taken place with carers, younger disabled people and older people with a range of support needs (e.g. Branfield, 2010; Burke, 2010; Cattan, 2010), a number of themes emerge about what makes for a ‘better life’. These include:
• continuity, personal identity and self esteem;
• meaningful relationships;
• personalised and respectful support;
• autonomy, control and involvement in decision making;
• a positive living environment: security, access, privacy and choice;
• meaningful daily and community life: making a contribution, enjoying simple pleasures; and
• good accessible information to optimise health and quality of life.
Challenges and approaches

Imogen’s background is in social work, research and evaluation, and equality and
diversity training and consultancy. She is an associate of the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) and a consultant partner at Equality.

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SOURCE:     The PublicNet.co.uk

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