A co-housing approach to providing support for older women in the community may be preferable to current home care polices, which risk isolating people in their own homes, a researcher says.
Myfan Jordan, director of innovation at the social justice think tank Per Capita, presented recent research which explores attitudes towards models of co-housing for older women at the AAG conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
Per Capita researchers, who collected over 50 hours of data from in-depth interviews with 23 women, found while attitudes varied towards different models of co-housing, “it was clear that women wanted community options”, Ms Jordan said.
She said the research showed that older women wanted to be part of a network that provided a “relationship of support”.
However this isn’t being provided by the individualised, consumer-focused nature of the existing Home Care Package Program, which “goes against being part of the community”.
“What people want isn’t necessarily tasks and activities, it’s to feel supported and to be able to talk about what you need,” she told Community Care Review after her presentation.
“It’s the way we organise the home care packages – we splitt them into menu items, tasks and activities. It’s care as a commodity rather than care as a relationship.”
Models of co-housing
Per Capita’s research also shed some new light on concerns and preferences around co-housing options.
Respondents had reservations about the home share model, where an older homeowner takes in a tenant who offers support in lieu of rent, Ms Jordan said.
“First of all they had the concern about privacy and the intimacy of the relationship and what might go wrong,” she said.
“Even though it was explained that there are opt-outs and the relationship was carefully managed, people thought it was great but not for them.”
Timebanking, which is commonly used in Switzerland, is based on a reciprocal volunteer model where time spenf volunteering is “banked” for the volunteer’s future support.
This also drew mixed responses, Ms Jordan said, with some unease about the “transactional nature” of the model.
We split (home care) into menu items, tasks and activities. It’s care as a commodity rather than care as a relationship.”
The Older Women’s Cooperative Housing (OWCH) model was the most popular. This is based on larger scale community co-living, based on self-governance and where up to 15-20 individuals can live in self-contained units with common areas.
Ms Jordan told CCR the main finding was that the women were extremely open to co-housing model, to the extent that even those in secure housing said they would move away to access such a community.
“For me that really challenged that notion of ageing in place,” she said.
Ms Jordan said as well as providing a pool of funds to support co-housing options, government policy needed to shift from on individualised home care towards community solutions.
“It’s the way we organise the care packages,” she said. “we split them into menu items, tasks and activities and there’s often inconsistent ways of delivering those tasks within set time limits so it been commodified, it’s care as a commodity rather than care as a relationship.”
Home care packages may be fostering isolation
Meanwhile, preliminary research presented by Dr Julie Dare from Edith Cowan University supported previous studies that indicated CDC in the home care packages program may be fostering isolation among older Australians.
Some older people are focusing more on instrumental services rather than social support services and that can increase the risk of them becoming isolated.
The findings so far made by Dr Dare’s team are based on interviews with five HCP recipients at a large Perth based provider.
Dr Dare told the conference there is a potential that individuals purchasing home care services might spend their packages in a way that prioritises services rather than social support, possibly because of confusion or lack of information about how they can use their funds.
“The potential there is that, from the perspective of the agency that we are working with that older people are selecting services that are more instrumental in nature,” she said.
“From the agency’s point of view, some older people are focusing more on instrumental services rather than social support services and that can increase the risk of them becoming isolated.”
Dr Dare said there may also be a tendency for service providers to discourage consumers from forming ongoing relationships with care workers, to minimise the risk of exploitation and elder abuse.
“What we’re hearing from the people that we’re interviewing is that they want that closeness with the people that are coming to support them, they want that level of connection. So there’s really that tension between what the service provider is aiming to achieve and what the older person wants,” Dr Dare said.
“Certainly home care packages are a really important strategy to allow people to remain in the home but we need to be ensuring that older people are able to make choices that enable them to remain socially connected.”