Elderly care around the world: how does the UK compare?

From modular, affordable housing, to dementia villages and the introduction of robots, there are many exciting initiatives appearing in elderly care around the world.

In this blog, we take a look at the countries leading the way in these emerging trends, and explore how the UK care sector compares.


Image source: The Economist


Netherlands: the rise of the dementia village

Over the next ten years, it’s predicted that 76 million people worldwide will be living with dementia. While there are medicines currently under clinical trial, these are highly expensive, which has resulted in alternative options being explored.

Enter De Hogeweyk: a gated village located in Weesp, the Netherlands. Since opening in 2009, it has won several international awards, and currently houses 152 elderly residents living with dementia.

There are no wards, long corridors or hallways at the facility. Instead, De Hogeweyk spans ten football fields, and houses a town square, garden, theatre and post office; allowing residents to live seemingly normal lives, in a place that feels like home, with help always nearby.

The 250 full and part-time nurses and specialists wander the town and hold other occupations like post-office clerks and cashiers; and family and friends are encouraged to visit their loved ones.

De Hogeweyk is largely subsidised by the Dutch government. Costing over $25 million to build, every month, care costs equate to approximately $8,000.

Compare this to average UK care home costs of £3,000 a month, or more than £30,000 annually, and the fact that the “cure” for Alzheimer’s is predicted to cost the NHS £9 billion; and it’s easy to see the case for more De Hogeweyk-style care homes across the globe.


How does the UK compare?

De Hogeweyk has inspired elderly care around the world, with similar projects underway in the US, Australia and Germany. The UK is aiming to follow in its footsteps too.

Expected to be completed by 2020, the facility (due to open in Kent) will span 15 acres, and will enable people living with dementia to remain independent.

As Simon Wright, Chief Executor of developer Corinthian stated: “The concept might be the future of care for people with Alzheimers… residents at De Hogeweyk require fewer medications, eat better, live longer and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities.”



Image source: xconomy


Japan: leading the way in robotics

By 2025, it’s predicted that Japan will have a shortfall of 370,000 caregivers due to their ageing population.

As a result, CARESSES was created; a Japanese government and EU funded pilot project that assesses the use of robots within care homes.

From helping residents with getting out of bed in the morning, to easing them in and out of bathtubs, robots are taking care of simpler tasks, to allow human caregivers to spend their time providing compassionate care.

There’s no denying that the use of robots are in the very early stages of testing; and there are many obstacles they need to overcome to be mainstream in elderly care around the world – most notably the stigma attached to their ability to “care”. However, there’s no doubt that they will play a huge part in the future of care homes.


How does the UK compare?

CARESSES held a trial at an Advinia care home in the UK. Pepper the robot – manufactured by  SoftBank Robotics – greeted residents, enabled them to access messages, played their favourite songs, and even reminded them to take their medication.

Robots that have become more commonplace in UK care homes include Robopets. Morris Care introduced a robotic seal pup to residents in six of its care homes, to help build reminiscence and nostalgia of past pets, whilst reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.

It’s hoped that in the future, robots will help to tackle the issue of loneliness, which can increase the likeliness of death by 26%.



Image source: TTJ Online


Sweden: Ikea and BoKlok

By 2040, almost one in four Swedes will be 65 or older. With Sweden’s population ageing in-line with much of the western world, the country has been questioning how it can continue to support its elderly nation without suffering from huge cost increases. IKEA had the answer.

Over the last 30 years, IKEA has built more than 11,000 modular homes across Sweden, Norway and Finland through BoKlok, a joint venture with Skanska.

With new modifications, IKEA is positive it can build new sustainable and affordable homes for dementia patients, and other elderly people suffering from memory loss. These changes will include fitting appliances with old fashioned knobs, and taking mirrors out of bathrooms.

In addition to houses, this scheme on the outskirts of Stockholm will also offer clubs for socialising, and therapeutic gardens.


How does the UK compare?

The UK will soon be getting in on the action. IKEA’s BoKlok venture means that for one town in southern England, they will soon see these modified home styles. The project was actually due to start years earlier, but was abandoned during the global financial crisis. Now, it’s being picked up again.

The plan is to build 160 houses on land that will be leased from the council, with 30% of the units being public housing. The remaining 70% will fall under BoKloks ‘left to live’ payment model, where residents only have to pay what they can afford after living expenses and any taxes.

With the cost of care homes a worry for many would-be residents, this is understandably great news.




Thailand: the future for care home residents?

Interestingly, reports have shown that many foreign OAPs have chosen to move to Thailand, with its major draws being its sunny climate, culture of service, and low living and health costs.

In fact, numbers of 50+ foreigners applying for Thai retirement visas has almost doubled, from 40,000 in 2013 to nearly 73,000 in 2017.

Jin Wellbeing County, a ‘medical city’ outside of Bangkok spanning five acres, is described as a brand-new lifestyle option that is appealing to many. Enabling residents to remain independent in their later years, they can still receive excellent quality care as and when they need it. 20% of the houses are due to be sold to foreigners.

In the words of Boon Vasin – the businessman behind the venture: “we will look after them from their waking hours until they go to sleep.”

How does the UK compare?

Of those 73,000 retirement visas, the majority were obtained by the Brits; and in 2017, the Thai government launched a campaign targeted at British pensioners, with the likes of Spain becoming less attractive due to Brexit.

One Brit who decided to move to Thailand is 78 year-old Brian Walker, who stated: “the cost of living is wonderful, the climate is superb… the range of food is nothing like I’ve ever experienced.”

With Brexit looming over our heads, and staff shortages becoming ever-important due to our ageing population, it will be interesting to see whether the number of British pensioners move overseas to receive care.


Final thoughts: elderly care around the world

There are exciting trends emerging in care homes worldwide; in an aim to combat issues of loneliness and dementia.

However, what’s interesting to see is that the UK is involved in many of these early developments too, which is a real credit to our sector. There’s no doubt that we still have a long way to go in the mass implementation of these new ideas; but when we compare our level of care in the UK to many countries worldwide, we fare extremely well.

For updates on the latest developments in the care sector, head on over to our blog. Alternatively if you’d like to find out more about our projects and products, then get in touch with us today – we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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