The 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 jointly published today by Age UK. Researchers, Valerie Lipman and Jill Manthorpe from the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at the Policy Institute at King’s 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 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.

The study asked if the older people’s social housing sector is prepared 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) and who may have dementia or develop it later. It found that while most Housing Associations had already planned how to meet the needs of their 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.

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 concluded the researchers. One of the most interesting discoveries was that Housing Associations rely so heavily on healthcare professionals when making adaptations; and did not feel confident in co-ordination such support. Overall good practice in meeting the housing and care needs of people who develop dementia needs to be matched by good practice in meeting 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 such as primary care should pay more attention to housing matters.

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.