A better life for older people with high support needs: the role of social care

20 May 2014

A good quality of life is something that everyone wants for older people. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has identified seven key challenges that need to be met for older people with high support needs, so that they can achieve a better quality of life. A new At a Glance briefing, published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), summarises each of the seven challenges set out by JRF, along with relevant SCIE resources related to meeting the challenges. The two organisations have teamed up because social care has a key role to play in meeting those challenges.

Many of these SCIE’s resources will support people, working in all aspects of social care, to address each of the challenges. SCIE and JRF say that it’s important to recognise that while there are seven challenges, they are all connected and need to be addressed as a whole rather than through acting on them individually. This way, older people with high support needs can be supported over the choice, control and quality in their lives.

Tony Hunter, SCIE’s Chief Executive, says:

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that everyone has a role to play in making sure older people with high support needs have better lives but it has recognised the particular role that people working in all aspects of social care have to play in this. This summary of the resources that SCIE has produced, which relate to meeting these challenges, is useful for everyone who is concerned with delivering social care that supports older people to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Ilona Haslewood, Policy and Research Manager for An Ageing Society at JRF, says:

The hundreds of older people who contributed to the programme told us about the things that make a real difference to their quality of life, ranging from getting fresh air to having meaningful relationships with care staff. The end result, the seven challenges, when met, will help achieve a better life in older age. The programme itself highlights some solutions; some simple, others less so. SCIE’s resources help to set out the ways in which social care practice can respond to these challenges.

The seven challenges

These are the key challenges that JRF say need to be addressed if older people, with high support needs, are to achieve a better quality of life:

  • Old age is not about ‘them’: it is about all of us
  • Older people are individuals and they are, as a group, becoming more diverse
  • Relationships matter to us whatever our age; we have a fundamental human need to connect with others meaningfully
  • Older people with high support needs have many assets, strengths and resources that they can also bring to the development and provision of services
  • Whatever our age or support needs, we should all be treated as citizens: equal stakeholders with both rights and responsibilities
  • The individual and collective voices of older people with high support needs should be heard and given power
  • We need both to innovate and improve existing models.

Section example: See and hear the individual

The briefing says that we all need to make the effort to see and hear the individual behind the label or diagnosis, taking into account the increasing diversity of older people as a demographic group. SCIE has a range of resources to support working in a person-centred way. Increasing diversity means that it’s important to address the needs in different communities, for example older people in black and minority ethnic communities, and older people in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. SCIE has a number of resources that address a range of equality issues relating to older people.

Relevant links

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