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Elderly residential care in the UK – this is just the beginning

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate

17-08-2020

We have all read about the devastating effects of COVID-19 on those living in residential care in the UK. We must recognise that the pandemic has pressed fast-forward on underlying trends and has brought the problems with how we care for our elderly into sharp relief. The call for change in the way the UK deals with social care of the elderly is becoming increasingly prominent with no signs that it is going to abate. Indeed, Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in England, is pushing for one of the positive legacies of COVID-19 to be that there is a “decisive answer” on how high-quality long-term social care is provided and funded.

When compared to “old-style” care homes (many being conversions rather than being purpose-built), well-run purpose-built, modern residential care homes have coped with COVID-19 much better overall. These modern facilities are generally built with both disease-control and comfort in mind. They have wide corridors, contain suites for the residents (larger areas where self-isolation is both possible and practical, especially as they usually come with en-suite bathrooms). Indeed, according to a study by Knight Frank, 6,500 existing “old-style” care homes are not fit for purpose, putting 140,000 beds at risk. Post COVID-19, there is, therefore, a very significant opportunity to invest in the creation of more of these state of the art care homes.

Interestingly, residential care villages appear to have weathered the COVID-19 onslaught remarkably unscathed. One national provider, for instance, has had only one case of infection, and that was contracted in hospital. The care village format is, if necessary, ideally-suited to social-distancing, with each resident or resident couple living in an individual apartment complete with self-catering facilities, but all the while retaining some benefit from being part of a community. Of course, many of the usual on-site amenities (the restaurants, gyms and swimming pools) are currently closed. However, with the ability to socially distance and with professional on-site care and assistance, it is clear why residents of care villages have fared so comparatively well.

We predict that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead to a great demand for quality elderly care. This may be in the form of the care village model.The UK’s over 65s (who hold 40% of the UK’s wealth) are a sociable group, but want to be safe, so they will be attracted to the best quality schemes. Alternatively, people will demand high quality modern care homes of which there is a shortage. Investors with expertise in the senior living sector will be very interested in the long-term stable returns available from high quality, well managed, private, purpose-built residential care homes and villages. Investors, providers and developers should position themselves to respond to this demand.