Refurbishment as a lever for improving the social and emotional wellbeing of older people living in sheltered housing

14th October 2021

Author: Zeibeda (Zeb) Sattar, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

As care needs change for people living in sheltered housing schemes, reassessments take place and higher levels of care are addressed.

It is common practice that as care needs change, residents may move from sheltered housing to residential and nursing homes. There are many initiatives in sheltered housing schemes to develop relationships and trust between staff and residents. Staff, it should be noted, face considerable challenges but consistently work very hard to maintain relationships. This observation comes from my own first-hand experience as someone who has been a Registered Manager for many years working in care homes. I am all too aware of the issues relating to staffing within the sector. Relationship building is key to identifying changes to resident health and early intervention can lead to healthier residents and better care.

A common complaint from residents living in sheltered housing schemes are feelings of isolation and loneliness. Loneliness is now described as a chronic condition that reduces life span (Marmott, et al., 2020)[i]. Many residents move into sheltered housing schemes because they have no family and very few local connections and look forward to meeting new people in their new homes. You would think that residents from all walks of life living under the same roof in the later stages of their lives would have so much to share! Sheltered housing schemes have various policies and procedures to settle tenants, promote introductions and deliver social activities in communal spaces for all residents to access and take part in. However, the planning and delivery of social activities to promote social connections can be more complex than it appears, especially in terms of tenant motivation and particularly when it comes to older frail adults (or over 85+).

Our study explores sheltered housing schemes in a locality in the north of England, which were refurbished to include more communal spaces to reduce isolation and loneliness[ii]. This was a much-welcomed decision for the residents living in these sheltered housing schemes and as we can imagine the expectations and energies were high and a way forward to encourage social activities and reduce isolation.

We all aspire to living in comfort and ease in our homes and feel excited but what is usually absent from our minds is the upheaval faced as a result of builders shuffling in and out of rooms and corridors. So how do older people cope with changes to their homes in this later stage of life, are they resilient?

The study sought to understand residents' perceptions of a refurbishment programme in sheltered housing schemes and the impact on their well-being.  A realistic evaluation model (Pawson & Tilley, 2012)[iii] was implemented together with a participatory appraisal (PA) approach[iv]. The research team recruited participants via the Housing Manager, who advertised the study on notice boards within the sheltered housing schemes and through discussions with residents about the project. Residents were asked 'How they felt during the improvements to their homes', and 'the safety implications of building works whilst they were living in the sheltered housing schemes'. Residents said their social and emotional well-being improved from the provision of indoor and outdoor communal areas. Residents also commented on how the physical changes increased opportunities for social connections.  

This study should help inform key stakeholders including developers, planners, builders and health and social care practitioners about the positive impact of refurbished elderly care home (ECH) schemes on residents’ wellbeing.


Read the full article: The impact of a refurbishment programme on older people living in sheltered housing

Journal: Housing, Care and Support, EarlyCite


[i] Marmot, M., Allen, J., Goldblatt, P., Herd, E. & Morrison, J. (2020) Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review. London: The Health Foundation.

[ii] Sattar, Z., et al (2021) The impact of a refurbishment programme on older people living in sheltered housing. In Housing, Care and Support.

[iii] Pawson R, Tilley N. (2012) Realistic evaluation. London: Sage.

[iv] Guijt I., Arevalo M., & Saladores, K. (1998), Participatory monitoring and evaluation. PLA Notes, 31, 28.