Dementia and ethnicity deepen housing needs

Gearing upThe increasing numbers of older people with dementia and older people from minority ethnic groups in the UK present new challenges for many housing services according to Gearing Up: Housing, Ethnicity and Dementia, a report just published by Age UK. Valerie Lipman and Jill Manthorpe from the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at the Policy Institute at King’s College London examined the ways in which Housing Associations in England and Scotland are preparing themselves for tenants who develop dementia, especially those who are from minority ethnic groups.

The study focused on asking how prepared the housing sector is for the growing numbers of older people from minority ethnic groups who may wish to move to older people’s housing in later life or who are already social housing tenants, but may have dementia or develop it later. The researchers found that while most Housing Associations already planned how to meet the needs of tenants from diverse ethnic groups, there was little awareness that many of these tenants might already have dementia. Similarly those Housing Associations that were making preparations for higher numbers of tenants with dementia were not always considering matters of ethnicity, religion and culture.

Professor Jill Manthorpe, Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s said, ‘The increasing numbers of older people with dementia and from minority ethnic backgrounds is challenging many parts of society, but the true impact on housing services is often overlooked. Not all training on dementia for housing workers covers cultural and ethnicity matters that are relevant to dementia care, and not all training on race equalities covers dementia – this really needs to be addressed.’

Professor Manthorpe continues, ‘One of the most interesting discoveries we made was that Housing Associations don’t always account for people’s ethnicity and likelihood of developing dementia. We suggest that good practice in meeting the housing and care needs of people who develop dementia, needs to meet their cultural, religious and ethnic-related needs. These all need to be considered together when it comes to providing good housing care and support. Existing good practice in this sector needs sharing and other services should pay more attention to housing matters.’

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said, ‘We know that our older population is increasingly diverse and also that the numbers of older people with dementia are set to rise quite significantly in the years to come. It therefore makes sense for social and retirement housing providers to make sure they factor both trends into account and also that they consider how they may interact for individuals and for groups in terms of their needs.’

‘This report is a valuable wake-up call to the social housing and retirement housing sectors that will hopefully help improve the services that older people from black and minority ethnic communities who develop dementia receive from them.’

Dr Valerie Lipman is Honorary Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. Professor Jill Manthorpe is Director of the Unit.

About the report

Lipman, V. & Manthorpe, J. (2015) Gearing up. Housing Associations’ responses to tenants with dementia from black and minority ethnic groups, London: Age UK.

The report was funded by Age UK with finance from the Department of Health as part of its Health & Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partner Programme.